September 19, 2012, New York, N.Y.

Liza Kliuzko Gets Enthusiastic Reception in the Big Apple

Members of audience during Q-n-A.

The Ukrainian Film Club of Columbia University opened its ninth season on Wednesday, September 19th, screening two works by the young Ukrainian director Liza Kliuzko.  The film club was very fortunate to have Ms. Kliuzko and her sound director-cum-producer Dmytro Ibraimov present at the screening. Ms. Kliuzko is a recent graduate of the National Ivan Karpenko-Kary University for Theater, Film and Television in Kyiv.  The screening showcased two of her short films, both of which she had created as a component of her university coursework.  The school requires that all students’ work

be produced in Ukrainian, not in Russian, and these films were no exception. Both films were inspired by the short stories of Guy de Maupassant. The first film “The Wardrobe” (2010) focused on a young woman who has turned to prostitution to support her family. The second film “Mykola’s Field” explored two contrasting stories of first love. This screening marked the first time that “Mykola’s Field” has been shown in North America.

Both films were very well received by the audience. After the screening, a question and answer session was held with Ms. Kliuzko and Mr. Ibraimov. Audience members asked about the process of creating and shooting the film, as well as her future plans. Ms. Kliuzko spoke about the guidance she received from her university professors, primarily her mentor and the well-known Ukrainian film director Mykhailo Illienko and the challenges of being a young director working with older, experienced actors. Although she provided no specifics about her future projects, she said that she does plan to continue making short films, and maybe a full-length one.

Tara McCrimmon 
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Here are some of the viewers' comments:

Kliuzko's short "Mykola’s Field"  is a mature exposition—done almost entirely without words—of a man’s belated attempt at requited love. The story is told in the present and past, often through close-up, almost still images or slight gestures. Her other feature short, "The Wardrobe", is the work of a younger Kliuzko, but no less remarkable for that. It crushingly tells of a woman who makes a decision that goes against her ethics for the sake of a higher value.

Ms. Kliuzko charmed challenged audience.

Despite the fact that they’re based on nineteenth-century French literature, both episodes make use of the universality of de Maupassant’s themes to strongly convey the genius loci of contemporary Ukraine. Kliuzko shows the anomie of a metropolis and the pastoral beauty and hardship of village life without resorting to either tired tropes or shorthand symbolism. For the unacquainted, this is a wonderfully honest depiction of Ukraine that represents it as much more dimensional than the static caricature so often portrayed in the popular media. And for the more-than-casual viewer, additional layers of meaning are carried in subtle images and allusions; in other words, Kliuzko cut no corners, carefully considering every element including: her script, the casting, the placement of objects within frames, costumes, and the editing, which, by the way, she also does!
After the screenings, Kliuzko and her sound director-producer, Dmytro Ibrahimov, answered the audience’s questions on such topics as the current state of cinema in Ukraine, the difficulties she contends with and how she approaches them, and what motivates her as a director. Notably, they said actors in Ukraine face a dearth of opportunities to exercise their talents. To Kliuzko’s advantage, however, this often gives her access to some of her country’s best performers who have the time to dedicate to works of high quality, no matter how small or low-budget they might be! She further explained that the general division of responsibilities in Ukrainian film production usually frees her to spend most of her time working with the actors themselves, her favorite part of the process. Kliuzko has already proven that she’s more than able to take on the challenge of working as a young, female director in Ukraine, and it’s evident she has much more to offer.

Ali Kinsella 

Liza Kluizko's films,"The Wardrobe" and "Mykola's Field" are truly remarkable. Both ... are lyrical, moving, beautifully filmed and acted. The fact that the first was completed when the film-maker was 19 and the second when she was 21 years old, only make them that much more exceptional. Serious and mature, with performances by some of Ukraine's most prominent actors, they are not what most of us think of when we think of "student made films." [...] Ms Kluizko's answers to the many questions put to her were thoughtful and extremely interesting. Anyone despairing of the present state of Ukrainian film and culture, left feeling hopeful. She is a young talent very much worth keeping an eye on.

Hilary Zarycky 
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Liza Kliuzko's short films were a stunning revelation of how much emotional depth can be communicated with almost no dialogue and yet totally reveal its subjects human frailty with exquisitely lyrical and even oblique imagery. The powerful impact of these delicately presented dramas in miniature belie the youth of their director, barely old enough, one would think to have even appreciated their worth. Every aspect of these films was executed as if by a seasoned professional but without the irony and bitterness that often accompanies one. Kudos to Ms. Kluizko and her producer Dmytro Ibraimov, whose own substantial talent made their production so intelligently effective.           

Larissa Lawrynenko 

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In both her films, I experienced heart-felt casting and direction. Characters were elder, middle-age, young-adult, teenage, and a near-toddler. Camerawork brought us within intimate actors’ spaces, while protecting their personal privacy. Liza’s direction of a small boy? Yes. A winner! The scene resonated for me – with a Taras Shevchenko story about how Taras and his sisters ran terrified out into the street when both parents were then dead, for they could not imagine what would happen next.
... Liza has it all. Really remarkable for someone so young.

Daniel Bavoliak 

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As the lights snapped on and the credits drew to a close, I felt I was witness to a rising star. Liza Kliuzko's humble demeanor could not mute the enthusiastic reception of her short films. Hallmarked by poignant absence of dialogue and meaningful camera direction, both films commanded the audience's emotion with force. Liza's charm shone in the Q&A that followed, and her insight into the mind of a creative, young director was a rare, wonderful cap to the evening. Between Ms. Kliuzko's gracious personality and her abundant talent, a sense of endearment was inescapable. 

Jeff Cochran 

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