| Original title: Mamay
Copyright: Ministry of Culture and Arts of Ukraine, National
Oleksandr Dovzhenko Film Studios, West European Institute,
Format: feature, full-length, 35 mm
Original language: Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar
English subtitles: yes
Director: Oles Sanin
Script writer: Oles Sanin
Cinematographer: Serhiy Mykhalchuk
Composer and sound: Alla Zahaikevych
Producers: Avram Hevorkian, Hanna Chmil
Design: Yulian Tykhonov, A. Severynenko
Costumes: Hanna Otenko, Iryna Klyba
Viktoria Spesyvtseva as Tatar woman
Andriy Bilous as the youngest brother Mamay
Nazl Seitablayeva as little Tatar girl
Akhtem Seitablayev, Eldar Akimov, and Emil Fatimayev
as Tatar warriors
Serhiy Romaniuk as the eldest brother
Oles Sanin as the middle brother and narrator.
Following the traditions of Ukrainian poetic cinema
Sanin creates a love story between a fugitive Ukrainian
Cossack and a Tatar woman that defieswho defy ethnic
and religious taboos and evokes a a
lesser-known Ukraine that, for centuries, has been home
religions and cultures. The film is a feast to the eye
with intense color palette, breath-taking camera shots,
soundtrack that is plainly hypnotizing. The actors are
riveting. This is a treat to everyone who loves arthouse
Mamay was Ukraine's official entry for the Academy Awards
nomination in the best foreign language film category
in 2004. The film is a favorite of UFCCU viewers around
About the film crew
Oles Sanin, director and actor, born in 1972, in Lutsk,
north-western Ukraine. Graduate of the Ivan Karpenko-Kary
University with degrees in acting and film directing.
Sanin is now teaching film directing at the University.
He directed the documentaries "Maestro", "Mother
Hope", "The Tempest", "The Sin",
"Christmas", "Day Seven". "Mamay"
is Sanin's directorial debut in the genre of full-length
Serhiy Mykhalchuk, cinematographer, born in 1972, in
Lutsk, graduated from the Ivan Karpenko-Kary University,
with a degree in film photography. Worked in commercial
photography and for TV, since 1996 works for the Filmotechnic
Company specializing in photography under special conditions
and with specially designed equipment. Director of photography
in more than two dozen short and full-length feature
films, documentaries, and TV series.
Alla Zahaikevych, composer. Graduated from the Kyiv
Chaikovsky Conservatory with a degree in music composition
and theory, post-graduate studies at the Institut de
Récherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique
at the Pompidou Center in Paris. She composed more than
twenty chamber pieces and the chamber opera "Numbers
and Wind". She is working with electronic technologies
in academic music and has been instrumental in the Establishment
of the chair of musical-information technologies at
the Kyiv Conservatory. She has taken a keen interest
in the study of musical folklore. Composed musical scores
for the films "Tysmenytsia" and "The
Hideaway" (both dir. by Nelia Pasichnyk). Cooperated
with Sanin and Mykhalchuk in creating the artistic installation
"Millstones of Time" by the artist V. Sydorenko
exhibited at the Venice Biennale.
From the introduction to the film by Yuri Shevchuk:
"Sanin considers himself a student of the late
Leonid Osyka, director of the now classic films the
"Stone Cross", and "Zakhar Berkut".
This important association informed Sanin's work. This
is the link between an artist and an esthetic tradition
within which his art develops.
Leonid Osyka is invariably mentioned alongside Sergey
Paradzhanov, Yuri Illienko, Mykola Mashchenko, and Ivan
Mykolaychuk, as a representative of what is known today
as the Ukrainian poetic cinema. This esthetic school
has come about in the 1960s. It was heralded by Paradjanov's
film "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" (1964).
Two salient features of Ukrainian poetic cinema arguably
have relevance to "Mamay". One is that the
director's subjective perception, his very own vision
of the material presented is given prominence. The emphasis
is consistently placed on the visual image, hence its
magnification. The flipside of this visual emphasis
is extreme verbal economy. There is very little language
and no dialogue. The human verbal language in "Mamay"
is reduced to a ritualistic murmur. Instead the semiotics
of the face, pose, gesture, landscape, color, light
The second salient feature of the Ukrainian poetic cinema
is the synthesis of cinema and folklore. Just like Dovzhenko's
"Earth", Paradjanov' "Shadows of Fogotten
Ancestors" or Osyka's "Stone Cross",
Sanin's "Mamay" is steeped in the imagery,
tropes, and symbolism of the Ukrainian and here also
Tatar folk songs, ballads, epic narratives, music and
other forms of folklore.
As his literary source Sanin takes the 16th century
epic ballad about the flight of three Cossack brothers
from the Tatar captivity in Azov (Vtecha triokh brativ
Three brothers break free from their captors and face
a dilemma. They have only two horses that can take them
to freedom. To evade the pursuit and a certain death
they need to leave someone behind. This someone is the
youngest brother. To save him they would have to part
with the trophy they had stolen. But that they would
not do. They leave their hapless youngest brother behind,
who then dies of exposure and grief. The two however
are soon caught and slaughtered by the Tatars. The disloyalty
is punished and the moral goodness of the youngest brother
Sanin uses this folkloric source in his own way. Says
Sanin, "The challenge for us was not to do a screen
adaptation of the text but to ruin this text in the
film. I was not interested in re-telling, yet again,
the stories already written in words. I sought a language
that would draw the viewer to the story emotionally,
that would help the viewer approach such primary arts
as poetry, music, ballet, and visual installations.
These arts do not appeal to reason. What they create
is beauty. It is through that beauty that one can appreciate
the message of this epic narrative."
"Mamay" is very much about contemporary Ukraine
symbolized as a land shared by a variety of faiths,
cultures, and histories. As such it includes the Cossacks
and the Tatars, the Christians and the Muslims, heroes
and villains, the oppressors and the oppressed. They
live side by side, the fight but they also fall in love
defying age-old hatred.
"Mamay" is also about a wider world. The film
carried an imprint of September 11th. Initially Sanin
intended to incorporate episodes of bloody battles between
the Tatars and Cossacks. The battle scenes had already
been scrupulously orchestrated and rehearsed. When the
news of the attacks in New York reached the filming
crew, Sanin by his own admission realized that a profound
change had taken place in the world around them and
within every one of them.
Says Sanin "The planet suddenly seemed all too
small and the conflicts all too close at hand.
We realized that we ourselves are characters in this
epic worldwide war and tragedy.
In the end we
decided to film a story where there would be no war,
a story that would reconcile nations instead of trying
to find who was right or wrong. The film seeks to expose
the senselessness of war, death and revenge."