Film Library
Mamay, 2003.
Original title: Mamay
Copyright: Ministry of Culture and Arts of Ukraine, National Oleksandr Dovzhenko Film Studios, West European Institute, 2003.
Format: feature, full-length, 35 mm
Carrier: DVD
Color: color
Length: 80"
Original language: Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar
English subtitles: yes

Film crew
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

Film cast
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 S,
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 to many
religions and cultures. The film is a feast to the eye
with intense color palette, breath-taking camera shots, and a
soundtrack that is plainly hypnotizing. The actors are riveting. This is a treat to everyone who loves arthouse cinema.

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 North America.

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 feature film.

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 rules supreme.
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 z Azova).
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 is extolled.
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."

The Mermaid, 1996.

Original title: Rusalonka
Copyright: D. Chashchyn and V. Tykhyi,
Format: Feature, short
Carrier: DVD
Color: black-and-white
Length:            28"
Original language: non-verbal with some background Ukrainian
English subtitles: no

Film crew
Director and script writer: Volodymyr Tykhyi
Cinematographer: D. Chashchyn
Artistic designer: M.Levchenko
Sound: E.Solomykyn
Editing: T.Boiko
Producers: D. Chashchyn and V. Tykhyi

Film cast
Vasyl Basha as Bohdan, Viktoria Malektorovych as Mermaid
R. Pysanko, V.Maksymenko, V. Tykhyi, V. Melnychenko, V. Pylunskyi

A young peasant named Bohdan catches a mermaid from a lake. She is hardly alive. He takes her home and nurses her back to health. Bohdan falls in love with the strange and beautiful creature, but the mermaid is not in a hurry to reciprocate. Her spirit of freedom clashes with Bohdan’s human desire to own and control in this cinematographic echo of Lesia Ukrainka’s classic poem “The Forest Song.”

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