Film Library
Earth, 1930.

Original title: Zemlia
Copyright: VUFKU Studios, Kyiv, USSR, 1929-1930.
Format: feature, full-length
Carrier: DVD
Color: black-and-white
Length: 89"
Original language: silent with Russian intertitles
English subtitles: yes

Film crew
Director: Oleksander Dovzhenko
Script writer: Oleksander Dovzhenko
Cinematographer: Danylo Demutskyi
Art director: Vasyl Krychevskyi
Assistant directors: Yulia Solntseva-Dovzhenko and Lazar Bodyk

Film cast
Stepan Shkurat as uncle Opanas
Semen Svashenko as his son Vasyl, the activist
Yulia Solntseva as Opanas’s daughter
Olena Maksymova as Vasyl’s bride
V.Krasenko as old Petro
Mykola Nademskyi as grandfather Semen
I Franko as Arkhyp Bilokin, Khoma’s father
Petro Masokha as Khoma Bilokin, a landowner
V.Mykhaylov as the village priest
P.Petryk as the head of the Young Communist Party Cell
P.Umanets as the chairman of the farm Soviet
L.Liashenko as a young kulak

Earth has often been voted by critics worldwide as one of the top films of all time. The story line of the film was inspired by a newspaper story about an activist leader who had recently been stabbed by reactionary farmers (kulaks). The plot was of little interest to Dovzhenko, a very individual non-conformist filmmaker. Instead he followed the dream logic of passion and emotions, skipping impressionistically over events and characters to focus on the generalized, eternal experiences of nature and living things: love, family ties, birth, death, planting and harvest, rejoicing in the fruits of one’s work.

Famine-33, 1991.

Original title: Holod-33
Copyright: National Dovzhenko Film Studio, 1991
Format: feature, full-length
Carrier: DVD
Color: color
Length:            90"
Original language: Ukrainian
English subtitles: yes

Film crew
Director: Oles Yanchuk
Script writer: Serhiy Diachenko, Les Taniuk
Cinematographer: Vasyl Borodin, Mykhailo Kretov
Composer: Viktor Patsukevych, Mykola Kolondionok
Artistic designer: Valeriy Bozhenko

Film cast
Heorhiy Moroziuk, Halyna Sulyma, Petro Beniuk, Leonid Yanovskyi, Oleksiy Horbunov, Maksymko Koval, Olia Kovtun, Kostia Kazymyrenko

Seventy years ago. One family. One village. Facing the unthinkable. The searing tragedy of the man-made genocidal famine covered up for generations. This is one of the first Ukrainian films trying to grapple with the unspeakable crime committed against the entire Ukrainian people. This film is about the Ukrainian Holocaust orchestrated by the Soviet Communist regime that, in just one year of 1933, took the lives of some 6 million people while the rest of the world looked the other way.

Flights in Sleep and Reality, 1982.

Original title: Polioty vo snie i nayavu
Copyright: Oleksander Dovzhenko Studio, 1982
Format: feature, full-length
Carrier: DVD
Color: color
Length: 87"    
Original language: Russian
English subtitles: no

Film crew
Director: Roman Balayan
Script writer: Viktor Merezhko
Cinematographer: Vilen Kaliuta
Art designer: Vitaliy Volynskyi
Composer: Vadim Khrapachev
Sound: Liudmyla Liubenska

Film cast
Oleg Yankovskiy as Seriozha
Liudmyla Hurchenko as Larisa Yuryevna
Oleg Tabakov as Nikolay Pavlovich
Liudmila Ivanova as Nina Sergeyevna
Liudmila Zorina as Natasha
Oleg Menshikov as Alisa’s friend
Aleksandr Adabashian as the sculptor
Nikita Mikhalkov as film director

The Western viewer will be surprised to find out that this low-key, slow-paced film is one of the greatest hits of the Soviet cinema released nine years before the collapse of the USSR. Made in the middle of perestroika it was widely perceived as a breath-taking illicit portrayal of a social misfit, whose non-conformism, Holden Caulfield style (from the novel the Catcher in the Rye), appeared nothing short of subversive at the time when Ukraine was still deeply immersed in the increasingly absurd reality of late socialist. The film features a rare line-up of Soviet film stars: the heart-throbs of the 1970s and 1980s generation - Oleg Yankovsky, Oleg Tabakov, Nikita Mikhalkov, the soon-to-become star of the post-Soviet Russian film Oleg Menshikov, and the never-aging queen of Soviet melodrama and kitsch Ukrainian-born Liudmyla Hurchenko.

About the film director
Roman Balayan, born in ethnically Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh in 1941, graduated from the Ivan Karpenko-Kary Institute of Theater Arts, atelier of Tymofiy Levchuk. He has lived and worked in Ukraine all his creative life. Balayan likes to call himself a student of Sergey Paradzhanov, yet unlike Sergey Paradzhanov, he has contrived to stay, up until 2007, surprisingly blind to the Ukrainian people surrounding him. He seems to have, forever, stuck in the parochial mentality of Russian imperial periphery, oblivious of the radical social, cultural, and political realignments that have taken place around him. Given this indifference to the Ukrainian people, their stories and their history of brutal suppression by the Soviets, the ostensibly humanist charge of Balayan’s films seems at best suspect and at worst a opportunist’s hypocritical posturing. With the exception of a few early films of little significance, Roman Balayan has not made a picture in Ukrainian or about Ukraine.

A Friend of the Deceased, 1997.

Original title: Priyatel' pokoynika (Russian), Un ami du défunt (French)
Copyright: Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC), Compagnie Est-Ouest, Compagnie des Films, National Dovzhenko Film Studios, Ukrainian Ministry of Arts & Culture, 1997
Format: feature, full-length
Carrier: DVD and VHS
Color: color
Length: 100"
Original language: Russian with some Ukrainian
English subtitles: yes Film crew
Director: Leonid Boyko and Vyacheslav Kryshtofovych (Krishtofovich)
Script writer: Andriy Kurkov
Cinematographer: Vilen Kalyuta
Composer: Volodymyr Hronsky
Producers: Pierre Rival and Jacky Ouakine

Film cast
Aleksandr Lazarev as Anatoli (Moscow)
Tatyana Krivitskaya as Lena/Vika (Kyiv)
Anzhelika Nevolina as Katia (St. Petersburg)
Yelena Korikova as Marina (Moscow)
Yevhen Pashyn as Dima (Kyiv)
Anatoli Mateshko as Boris (Kyiv)
Serhiy Romaniuk as Ivan (Kyiv)
Kostiantyn Kostyshyn as Kostia (Kyiv)

Tola is an unemployed translator whose wife is leaving him. Despondent and weak, he submits to the suggestion of an acquaintance to have a contract placed on the man that his wife is seeing. Instead, however, he arranges for the hit to be placed on himself. Before the contract is executed, he develops a relationship with a prostitute, and then changes his mind. In order to survive he takes the obvious course of action, which turns out to have possibly been unnecessary, and then he must deal with the guilt.

About the film director
Vyacheslav Kryshtofovych (Russian spelling Krishtofovich) was born into a Ukrainian-Polish family in Kyiv, Ukraine in 1947. When in high school, he developed an interest in filmmaking, and subsequently enrolled in the Kyiv Theatrical Institute at the age of 18, where he studied directing. After graduating from the film school in 1971, Kryshtofovych began his directing career at the Dovzhenko Studio in Kyiv. Between 1975 and 1985 he directed six television films, including "His Own Happiness" (1979), winner of a Special Jury Prize at the USSR Festival of Television Films; "Two Hussars" (1984), based on a Tolstoy story; and "Volodya the Big, Volodya the Small" (1985), adapted from the work of Anton Chekhov.
Kryshtofovych's first theatrical feature, "Single Woman Seeks Lifetime Companion" (1986), won a Best Actress award for Irina Kupchenko at the Montreal Film Festival. His second theatrical film was "Self-Portrait of an Unknown Person" (1988). His film, "Adam's Rib" (1991), was enthusiastically received at the Cannes, Toronto, Montreal, and New York Film Festivals, and was distributed in Europe, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the U.S.
Kryshtofovych about himself, "I received a mainly Russian education but I have always considered myself to be a Ukrainian. It's difficult to explain, but, except for my work as a student, I have never before chosen specifically Ukrainian material for my projects. All my films have been made in the Russian language, but I do believe you can find a piece of my Ukrainian soul in each of them".

1986 "Single Woman Seeks Lifetime Companion" Best Actress Award for Irina Kouptchenko at Montreal Film Festival.
1988 "Self-Portrait of an Unknown Person".
1991 "Adam's Rib", Official Selection, Directors' Fortnight, Cannes Film Festival, Audience Award, Montreal Film Festival.
1997 "A Friend of the Deceased".

From introduction to the film by Yuri Shevchuk:
"The Orange Revolution has triumphed. A new democratic, freedom-loving Ukraine is just around the corner, right? Not quite so fast. Enter reality. Today, Ukraine is afflicted with corruption, degradation of human values, decline of culture and morality, sucked dry by criminals in high places. The enormity of the challenge of overcoming this legacy is beyond imagination.
"A Friend of the Deceased" invites the public to take a sober view of the Ukrainian society as it enters the first days of the Yushchenko presidency. It portrays a society that bears a disturbingly close resemblance to today's Ukraine.
What do you do when you are a young well-educated urban Ukrainian man, who cannot find a job, any job, whose beloved wife is openly cheating on you, and would not divorce you out of pity? You hire a contract killer, and pay him to kill … you. Tolia, an all-Ukrainian denizen of Kyiv is trapped in the lawless, hypocritical, and cruel society. He is about to give up fighting and commit suicide by proxy. But on the very verge of the abyss, he peers down, steps back and fights. Will Tolia win, will Ukraine win? It is anybody's guess. Kryshtofovych said in an interview that he did not mean this film as any kind of metaphor for the Ukrainian condition circa 1997, but the viewer who is all too well familiar with the "reality on the ground" will surely be tempted to see exactly such a metaphor.
"A Friend of the Deceased" is a crime story that brings to high relief the sick post-Soviet Ukrainian society where one has to lie, cheat, betray, and even kill in order to be successful, where human virtue is worthless and murder is just another type of business, well-paid and even respectable. Call it film-noir Kyiv style. "A Friend of the Deceased" based on the novel and screenplay by the acclaimed crime writer from Kyiv Andriy Kurkov is not all gloom and doom, but it is definitely anti-poetic in its stark, wry, and shocking realism. The film is also strangely optimistic in its implied, unspoken belief in the triumph of humanity.


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