Original title: ToiKhtoProishovKrizVohon
Copyright: State Agency of Ukraine for Cinematography, Insight Media Production Center.
Format: feature narrative, melodrama
Length: 105 min.
Original language: Russian, interspersed with some stilted Ukrainian.
English subtitles: yes
Director: Mykhailo Illienko
Script writer: Mykhailo Illienko, Denys Zamriy, Kostiantyn Konovalov
Cinematographer: Oleksander Kryshtalovych
Produced by: Andrii Suyarko, Alla Ovsiannikova, Volodymyr Filippov
Original Music: Volodymyr Hronsky
Sound: Oleh Kulchytsky, Artem Mostovy
Editing: Viktor Maliarenko
Special effects: Yuri Kharchenko
Dmytro Linartovysh as Ivan Dodoka
Vitalii Linetsky as Shulika
Viktor Andrienko as Smirnov
Olha Hryshyna as Liubov Karymova
Oleksander Ihnatusha as Uhrium Ruka
Oleh Prymohenov as Naskrizny
Oleksa Kolesnyk as Idian Chieftain
Ivanna Illienko as Shadow
This melodrama is inspired by the real-life story of one Ivan Datsenko, native of the village of Chernechyi Yar in the legend-steeped land of Poltavshchyna, in central Ukraine. He becomes a fearsome fighter pilot during World War Two, earning the title Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest military distinction bestowed by Stalin. He escapes first from a Nazi and then Soviet concentration camps, flees to Canada, where - suspend your disbelief - Datsenko allegedly becomes the chieftain of an Iroquois tribe.
[from a review by Alexander Moryl] "Illienko’s film features Ivan Dodoka, a Ukrainian peasant from the Poltava region, who becomes an ace pilot, is shot down and captured by the Nazis, is dumped in the Gulag for his “treasonous” stint in a German camp, and escapes by plane to Canada, where he comes upon Indians who take him in and provide him with a home. Although the commercially successful film has been called a “blockbuster” in Ukraine, it’s hardly a Hollywood-style epic with a gun-slinging hero. Rather, as Illienko put it, it’s a “romantic ballad,” an art film that combines magical realism with history and adventure.
The cleverest part of the film is its treatment of identity and language. Dodoka speaks Ukrainian at home and with some intimate friends. He teaches it to his Tatar wife, who in turn teaches him her language. He also teaches it to the Indians in Canada. Once outside the personal sphere, however, Dodoka speaks only Russian, which is the language of communism, the police, and the military—in a word, of power. Ironically, Dodoka can speak Ukrainian freely, and in that sense be himself, only after he leaves Ukraine. In contrast to the Soviet power-holders, who countenance only Russian, the Indians happily learn how to sing Ukrainian songs and to cook borscht. Illienko’s message is clear: Soviet rule crushed Ukrainian language and identity, and the only refuge from its oppressive influence could be found in internal or external emigration."