Not only "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors": what movies made Ukraine famous all over the world
Last year was definitely a successful year for Ukrainian cinema. The world saw the long-awaited cartoon Mavka. The Forest Song, the historical epic Dovbush and other films worth watching. In particular, the documentary 20 Days in Mariupol was shortlisted for the Oscars and will compete for the Best International Film and Best Documentary Feature in March.
This is not the first time that Ukrainian cinema has been recognized by foreign audiences. It's worth mentioning Sergei Parajanov's cult film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, as well as other Ukrainian films that have stirred up the world community. Adastra Cinema has prepared a selection of the most popular of them.
How it all started
Cinema in Ukraine developed in parallel with the world cinema, and the first movie screening took place even earlier than the famous Lumiere brothers' screening. In 1893, mechanic Yosyp Tymchenko, together with a physicist he knew, developed a mechanism that became the basis of the kinescope. In the same year, the first videos were shown - The Horseman and The Javelin Thrower.
The phenomenon of "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors"
The most prominent and famous Ukrainian film of the twentieth century is the film adaptation of Kotsiubynskyi's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, directed by Sergei Parajanov. The film is ranked number one in the 100 Best Films in the History of Ukrainian Cinema.
"Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors introduces the viewer to Hutsul customs, rituals, traditions, and most importantly, shows the supremacy of nature over human life. At one time, the film was presented at international festivals, where it received recognition and awards.
Cinema of independence
After the restoration of Ukraine's independence in 1991, the industry chose the vector of independent development. And although at the beginning of this path the Russian influence was quite noticeable, everything changed with the arrival of 2014. Filmmakers opened up more opportunities, searched for new forms and styles.
"The Tribe", 2014
Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi's crime-drama debut is unique in its lack of verbal dialogues. The characters communicate exclusively in Ukrainian sign language without subtitles or voiceovers.
The protagonist of the film is Sergei, who arrives at a boarding school for the hearing impaired. He joins the criminal group Tribe, where he quickly gains authority. However, everything goes awry when he falls in love with Anya, a prostitute and concubine of the King, the leader of the gang.
The film was screened in dozens of countries, participated in 100 film festivals around the world, and won over 40 awards. Foreign critics gave the film a very positive review. In Ukraine, the film received mixed reviews, but was included in the top 5 best Ukrainian films.
"The Guide", 2014
The historical drama directed by Oles Sanin takes the viewer back in time. The story tells about the tragic events of the Holodomor. The plot centers on a blind lyre player Ivan and a boy Peter, the son of an American engineer, who seek to tell the truth to the whole world.
The film is based on the legend of the shooting of kobzars at a congress in Kharkiv, although no documentary evidence of the event has ever been found.
The film received favorable reviews from Ukrainian critics. In 2015, it represented Ukraine at the Oscars, although it was not shortlisted. In 2021, Suspilne added the film to the list of masterpieces of Ukrainian cinema.
Valentyn Vasyanovych's drama tells the story of the life of soldiers after the war. The film immerses you in a post-apocalyptic atmosphere. It is interesting that the characters were played not by professional actors, but by real fighters, veterans, and volunteers. One of the main themes of the film is the adaptation of former soldiers to civilian life.
The film premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, where it won the Horizons program. The film also won a number of awards at other foreign and Ukrainian festivals, taking 11th place in the list of "100 Best Ukrainian Films".
"Hutsulka Ksenia", 2019
One of the few contemporary Ukrainian films in the musical genre. A real benefit for the world-famous Ukrainian band Dark Daughters. Directed by Olena Demyanenko and based on the operetta of the same name by Yaroslav Barnych, the film is a reinterpretation of the national classic.
The story takes place in 1939, with only a few weeks left before the Soviet Union occupies and annexes western Ukraine. An American of Ukrainian descent, Yaro (Maxim Lozynsky), arrives in Vorokhta to marry a Ukrainian woman. Only on this condition will he inherit his father's large fortune. Yaro meets a Hutsul woman, Ksenia (Varvara Lushchyk), who makes her own adjustments to the foreigner's plans.
The film received positive feedback from Ukrainian film critics and won the Grand Prix at the Mt. Fuji - Atami International Film & VR Festival in Japan. In addition, the film won two nominations at the IV Golden Dzyga Film Awards in 2020: Golden Dzyga Award for Best Composer (Timur Polyansky, Dakh Daughters freak cabaret) and Best Song (Mavka-Rusalka, Dakh Daughters freak cabaret).
"How is Katia", 2024
This is the debut feature film by director Christina Tynkevych. The film had its festival premiere at the Odesa Film Festival in 2016, and in 2022, it made its mark at the 75th Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland. There, the film received a special mention from the jury in the Contemporary Filmmakers Awards program.
The story follows the life of an ambulance doctor who fights against a corrupt system. Anna is a single mother, sister, daughter, and a support for her family. She strives to create a better life for her daughter, but a sudden tragedy forces her to fight for justice. This is one of the few Ukrainian films about corruption.
The film has already conquered dozens of world film festivals. Cineuropa, an online information portal dedicated to promoting European cinema, praised the film. "It seems that a new Ukrainian wave of young directors is being born before our eyes," the report says. The film will be available in Ukrainian cinemas starting January 25, 2024.