May 18, 2012

Mykhailo Illienko's New Film Box-Office Success

After years of creative hiatus, director Mykailo Illienko finished his much anticipated feature narrative The Firecrosser (Ukr. ToiKhtoProishovKrizVohon). Theatrically released on January 19, 2012, the film became a bit of a sensation as the first Ukrainian-made picture to enjoy a wide popularity with the viewer since independence. In the first few months, it garnered an unprecedented million hryvnias at the box-office, proving that national filmmakers can successfully compete with Russian and Hollywood productions. The Firecrosser had its US premier at the KinoFest Film Festival, New York, NY, on May 6, and in addition was screened, either as official selection or outside the competition, at the Kyiv International Film Festival (2011), Odessa IFF (2012), Zolotoy Vitiaz IFF, Russia (2012), Golden Apricot IFF, Armenia (2012). It was released on DVD in May, 2012.


Read review by Yulia Raskevich in Kyiv Post.

Ukraine has never been a great movie-making nation. But nevertheless, some movies make one proud to be Ukrainian, and “Firecrosser” is certainly one of them. Based on a true story, it's well produced, it features a slice of Soviet reality and tells a fascinating story of a war hero who becomes a prisoner in Stalin's camp only to re-emerge later in his life as a leader of a native tribe in North America. It took director Mykhailo Illienko five years to produce the film, and finally it's about to hit the big screen on Jan. 19 in Kyiv's Kinopalats, on 1 Instytutska Street.
A young Ukrainian pilot during World War II called Ivan Dodoka ends up in Stalin's GULAG in Siberia for being captured by the Nazis. His close friend, also an army man, pronounces him dead to pursue his wife.
Although Dodoka escapes from the camp, his former friend turned enemy starts to hunt him as a dangerous criminal all over the USSR. Ivan disappears off his radar, and years later his wife finds out that he lives in Canada and has become chief of a native tribe.
A Soviet delegation that visited one of Montreal's native settlements in 1967, was shocked when the trip leader greeted them in Ukrainian. Dressed in feathers and furs, the chief turned out to be an ex-pilot who has gone through a whole ordeal back home.
The delegation members brought this amazing story home. But, of course, despite the fascinating plot, the Soviet Union could not have a movie making a hero out of a refugee.
It took just short of half a century for this story to be turned into a movie by an adventurous film director.
“For the Soviet regime it was impossible to shoot a movie about Soviet war pilot who wears feathers”, says Illienko. At 64, he remembers that reality very well, since his own directorial debut in 1975.
The budget of “Firecrosser” was Hr 16, 000, 000. It was partially subsidized by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine. It includes 3D graphics, special effects and all the bits and bobs you would expect in a modern movie.
Dmytro Linartovych, the actor who played Dodoka, made a convincing performance both as a fighter pilot and as a tribe man. The soundtrack made with participation of the National Symphony Orchestra and Dakha-Brakha ethnic band, adds a subtle and powerful coloring to the movie.
“Sadly, until now Ukraine has not had a real movie-based hero – just losers,” Illienko says . We wanted to change this and to present to the world a real Ukrainian. This movie is about us, Ukrainians, and for us.”
Apart from Ukraine, the film will be presented in Russia and Poland, and negotiations are ongoing in Canada and USA.

Yulia Raskevich, Kyiv Post.


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