Reflections on the Ukrainian Film Club’s First Decade: Interview with Yuri Shevchuk

The events are held on the Columbia University campus, usually in one of the lecture halls at the Department of Slavic Languages, Hamilton Hall, seventh floor. There are also off-campus lectures/presentations in other U.S. cities and in other countries. The UFCCU has held screenings at Rutgers, Ohio State, and Harvard universities, the University of Toronto as well as at non-academic venues in Philadelphia, Edmonton, Toronto, Chicago, Hartford, CT, Yonkers, NY, and other cities. The Club offers its film collection and expertise to facilitate film presentations on invitation from interested parties outside Columbia University. Inquiries should be sent to Yuri Shevchuk.

The on-campus events usually take place every third Thursday of the month at 7:30 PM during the regular academic year with Christmas and summer holiday breaks. The events are announced on this website as well as on various internet mailing lists, Brama, in the Ukrainian Weekly and at other New York City universities such as New York University, City University of New York, the New School for Social Research and, of course, Columbia.

Ukrainian Film Club @ Columbia University will screen the feature documentary by Ostap Kostiuk

The Living Fire, 2014

This stunningly beautiful and poetic movie chronicles three generations of Ukrainian Carpathian shepherds who struggle to keep their ancient trade alive in the face of modernity. It is a story about pitiless daily labor that knows no weekends, about a harmonious world that we’ve lost in our search for comfort, about the childhood that is left behind when one takes on the role of an adult … The Living Fire has been a critical and viewers’ success at many film festivals around the world.

When: Wednesday, March 21, 2018, 7:30 PM
Where: Deutsches Haus, 420 West 116th St. (off Amsterdam Ave.)

Ukrainian with English subtitles. Yuri Shevchuk will introduce the film and mediate the discussion. Free and open to the public

Trauma, Resiliency, and Remembrance in Ukrainian Cinema. The Case of The Guide and The Tribe.


On August 24, 1991, in the wake of a failed coup in Moscow, the Ukrainian parliament declared independence. A few months later, in December of that year, 90% of voters chose to ratify this declaration through a referendum, transitioning Ukraine into a postcolonial, post-Soviet state grappling with questions of national identity. Film became national cinema, aiming to mythologize the legacy of the Ukrainian people through their collective adversity under Soviet rule in the 20th century. The myth building of culture culminates in national experience, which differentiates the nation from other communities through its confrontation with antagonistic forces that seek to destroy it. Andrew Higson notes, “Histories of national cinema can only therefore really be understood as histories of crises and conflict, of resistance and negotiation”. As such, contemporary Ukrainian cinema focuses on the nation’s past maltreatments, “built up on a binary opposition between self and other, where the other [is] the intruder, the colonizer, the enemy” (Pavlyshyn). The two films this review examines, The Guide (2014) and The Tribe (2014), each focus on marginalized communities that persist in opposition to an antagonistic colonizer, whether the Soviet state or, in the case of The Tribe, the apathetic environment leftover from colonization. Viewed together, these films demonstrate the importance of reclaiming past traumas and acts of resistance in post-Soviet Ukraine, crafting a national identity that remains acutely aware of the extreme violence it has been forced to endure through decades of subjugation.

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"The Ukrainian Sheriffs" in New York. An Important Story Missed by the World


Yuri Shevchuk (right) discussing "Ukrainian Sheriffs" with Roman Bondarchuk (left) and Dar'ya Averchenko (center) at the Ukrainian Institute of American

True to its mission of giving international exposure to young Ukrainian filmmaking talent, the Ukrainian Film Club held a special screening of "The Ukrainian Sheriffs". The feature documentary was directed by Roman Bondarchuk and produced by Dar'ya Averchenko. For both the film is their debut in the genre of the feature length documentary. The very well attended Columbia screening was immediately followed by another such event at the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York, N.Y. on December 7. Both were attended by Mr. Bondarchuk and Mrs. Averchenko who were in the United States promoting their film, which is Ukraine's official entry for the Oscar consideration in the best foreign language film category.
Oscars or not, "The Ukrainian Sheriffs" should be seen by everybody who would like to understand the present-day Ukraine in its complexity and outside the easy, simplistic, and inevitably misleading dichotomies so dear to a great majority of foreign observers writing about that country: nationalist east vs pro-Russian west, Ukrainian-speakers vs. Russian-speakers, Orthodox Christians vs Greek Catholics, etc.). At first glance, the film is about an ordinary village community in the south of Ukraine (Kherson Province), that the Russian imperial propaganda calls Novorosiya or New Russia, implying that these areas are in spirit Russian and should be "returned" to the imperial fold. Read >>>

Silent Ukrainian Film, Considered Lost, Is Found in Germany

Pigs Are Always Pigs (Pupky Station), a silent comedy produced at the Ukrainfilm Odesa Film Studio in 1930 by director Khanan Shmain, was long considered lost. Last year, the Russian film scholar Piotr Bagrov discovered the film in the Bundescarchiv German Federal Archives. The director of the Bundesarchiv contacted Mr. Ivan Kozlenko, the director on the Oleksander Dovzhenko National Film Archive in Kyiv in February 2015 with the offer to transfer the seven reels of film, both positive and negative prints, that were in their collection to Ukraine. It was arranged for the film to be sent by diplomatic post. Pigs arrived in Ukraine on August 22.
The return of Pigs is the third great triumph toward reaching the goal of enriching our film archives with the rarest exemplars of early Ukrainian cinema. Petro Chardynin's Taras Triasylo (1926), a film that was believed to have been lost up until the mid-1990s, was returned to Ukraine in 2014, and Mykhailo Kaufman's A Novel Expedition (1931) was introduced into scholarly circles last year. Breaking the news on his FB page, Ivan Kozlenko notes that "Pigs is an unbelievably witty, dynamic comedy that simultaneously makes fun of Soviet bureaucracy, formalism pushed to the limits of the absurd through utter mayhem and sabotage, anti-intellectualism, and provincialism far from the historical challenges of the age. The spirit of the film is similar to that of Mykola Shpykovsky's philistine comedies, especially his legendary Self-Seeker (Shkurnyk, 1929), which was aimed at an immanent critique of the new Soviet life. Taken together, the two films form a separate body of early Ukrainian satirical comedies." Read >>>

The Zombie Woodpecker

February 24, 2014, New York, N.Y.

Fedir Aleksandrovych (left) and Artem Ryzhykov at Columbia event.

The Ukrainian Film Club at Columbia University held an event with Fedir Aleksandrovych and Artem Ryzhykov, two Ukrainian crew members of the feature documentary "The Russian Woodpecker", dir. Chad Gracia, US-UK-Ukraine coproduction, which has just been awarded the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Documentary category at the hugely prestigious Sundance Film Festival and is headed for theatrical release and distribution in the U.S. in the near future. Mr. Aleksandrovych conceived the idea of the film and appear as the narrator in it. Mr. Ryzhykov is its cinematographer.
In their most recent discussion of the critically-acclaimed The Russian Woodpecker, filmmaker Fedir Aleksandrovich and cinematographer Artem Ryzhykov wholeheartedly presented the backstory to their impassioned art, becoming one step closer to cementing their selves with their work forever as their audience grows bigger. Their presence was anything but pretentious, nor was it projected in controlled tempos of self-promotion. Both are young, and placidly believe that their "version of what happened" will remain a mere version until the international community pursues an objective investigation. Read >>>

Secrets of "The Russian Woodpecker": Columbia Discussion with Crew of the Sundance Winner

February 22, 2015, New York, N.Y.

Filmmakers from Kyiv sharing insights on the mystery of Chornobyl catastrophe at Columbia.

On February 19th, the Columbia University community had a unique opportunity to talk with two members of the team behind the winner of the 2015 Sundance Film Festival's prestigious World Cinema Jury Prize for a documentary feature - "The Russian Woodpecker." Fedir Aleksandrovych, a theatrical artist and the documentary's main figure, and Artem Ryzhykov, the cinematographer, were present to discuss the film's conception, research, and other behind-the-scenes details.
"The Russian Woodpecker" follows Fedir's investigation into the events of the Chornobyl nuclear accident, prompted by chatter on Russian message-boards and social media about the real cause of the disaster being tied up in some shadowy conspiracy. These theories lead the documentary team to discover the existence of the enormous "Duga-3" radar system--nicknamed the "Russian Woodpecker," for the tapping sounds it generated--built by the Soviet Union within 7 kilometers of the Chornobyl reactor. Intriguingly, the existence of the Duga-3, now inside the Chornobyl exclusion zone, is almost completely unheard-of in Ukrainian society, and many people present at the discussion, including Dr. Shevchuk, expressed their surprise at this revelation. Despite standing 150 meters tall and spanning a full kilometer in length, the "Woodpecker," supposedly built as a first-warning system for American missile activity "beyond the horizon," remains largely secret. Read >>>

The Green Jacket, director Volodymyr Tykhyi. Film Review

February 10, 2015, New York, N.Y.

Written and directed by established Ukrainian director Volodymyr Tikhyi, The Green Jacket (2013), Zelena Kofta in Ukrainian, is a psychological thriller that exposes our most human vulnerabilities.
The film focuses on a family living in the suburbs of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, specifically on the teenage daughter Olia (played by Oleksandra Petko). The family is sent into a state of emotional purgatory as something happens to the six-year-old son, Mykhas (Ivan Baklan), while under Olia’s care. As the story unfolds, it becomes evident that Olia’s hysterical mother (Lesya Kalynska) and apathetic father (Taras Tkachenko) are unable and almost unwilling to deal with the recent events. Witnessing the incapability of the adults in her life, Olia decides she must take matters into her own hands to save her brother, and perhaps even herself. Read >>>

Critics Sound for Slaboshpytskiyi’s The Tribe

February 9, 2015, New York, N.Y.

Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe is perhaps the most-talked about Ukrainian film since independence. More importantly, it has been the most internationally decorated film by a Ukrainian film director ever.
Born in Kyiv, Ukraine in 1974, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy graduated from the filmmaking department of the Ivan Karpenko-Kary State Institute for Theater, Film, and TV as a feature film director. He has worked at the Dovzhenko Film Studio in Kyiv and the Lenfilm Studios in St. Petersburg, Russia. He has also worked as a script writer for numerous made-for- TV movies and published a number of short stories. One of them, “The Chornobyl Robinson,” took first place in the All-Ukrainian Script Contest Coronation of the Word in 2000. Read >>>


January 29, 2015, New York, N.Y.

Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe is perhaps the most-talked about Ukrainian film since independence. More importantly, it has been the most internationally decorated film by a Ukrainian film director ever.
Born in Kyiv, Ukraine in 1974, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy graduated from the filmmaking department of the Ivan Karpenko-Kary State Institute for Theater, Film, and TV as a feature film director. He has worked at the Dovzhenko Film Studio in Kyiv and the Lenfilm Studios in St. Petersburg, Russia. He has also worked as a script writer for numerous made-for- TV movies and published a number of short stories. One of them, “The Chornobyl Robinson,” took first place in the All-Ukrainian Script Contest Coronation of the Word in 2000. Read >>>

Ukraine's Entry for the Oscar to Be Screened at Columbia University

October 16, 2014, New York, N.Y.

This year, Ukraine will be represented at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards (the Oscars) in the best foreign language category for 2014 by the director Oles Sanin's the latest work The Guide. To mark its 10th anniversary, the Ukrainian Film Club of Columbia University is organizing a series of screenings of the film in five US cities with the participation of the film director himself: New York City (December 2), Philadelphia (December 3), Cambridge, MA (December 4), Chicago (December 5), and Detroit (December 10). The unofficial US premiere of the film will take place on December 2, 2014, Tuesday at 7:30 PM, at Columbia University, 501 Schermerhorn Hall, the Morningside Campus. Oles Sanin will present and discuss his film with the viewers. Read >>>


The Ukrainian Film Club of Columbia University (UFCCU) is a forum of Ukrainian Cinema in New York City. It is a non-for-profit educational and cultural initiative within the expanding Ukrainian Studies Program at Columbia University. It was organized in October 2004. Its events are free and open to all. Its goal is to promote knowledge of Ukrainian cinema in the world. >>>

The UFCCU collection consists of the films donated by their directors to the Club or acquired through open commercial distribution. The films are made in Ukraine or in other countries on Ukrainian subject matter. Films are in DVD format with the exception of a few on VHS. Ukrainian-made films have English subtitles. As a matter of policy the Club neither loans nor duplicates the films in its collection, most of which are unique copies with English language subtitles. Instead we gladly accept invitations to screen films at various outside venues. >>>


Typically, a UFCCU event consists of a brief introduction by Yuri Shevchuk, the founding director of UFFCU and lecturer of the Ukrainian language and culture at Columbia; a screening; and a discussion with the audience participation. Events are organized thematically, around a chosen film either made in or related to Ukraine, or around an individual director or group of filmmakers. Ideally the Club would like to screen films with the participation of their directors. We have already hosted Taras Tomenko, Serhiy Bukovsky, and Taras Tkachenko of Kyiv, Ukraine, and Andrea Odezynska of New York, NY. >>>

Parallel to film presentations and lectures, the UFCCU runs various projects aimed at promoting the knowledge of Ukrainian cinema and Ukraine in the West. Among its on-going projects are:

  • The International Translation Workshop

  • Ukraine. A View from the West

  • Ukrainian themes in Hollywood

  • Ukrainian film in an International Perspective >>>

Ukrainian Film Club of Columbia University© 2015. For more information please contact Yuri Shevchuk