Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Ukrainian World War II drama wins at two film festivals in Europe

by Artur KorniienkoDecember 7, 2021 2:52 pm
A still from "Why I’m Alive," a Ukrainian film that received two awards from minor film festivals in Europe – Europe Film Festival and Future of Film Awards. (Courtesy)

"Why I'm Alive," a film about a Ukrainian-Jewish family during the Nazi occupation of Soviet Ukraine, has been recognized as the best feature film at two minor international film festivals in November – the Europe Film Festival based in London and the Future of Film Awards in North Macedonia.

Both festivals hold monthly competitions to give filmmakers from around the world an opportunity to showcase their work.

"Why I'm Alive" tells the story of a Ukrainian-Jewish couple in Mariupol in 1940. Parts of their families oppose their union, but things quickly change when World War II reaches this port city in southeastern Ukraine.

The comedy-drama is based on a short story by Yevgeni Mitko, a late Soviet Russian screenwriter born in Mariupol in 1931. His friend, the 83-year-old Ukrainian director Villen Novak, put it to screen after the project received funding from Ukraine's State Film Agency.

The film was produced by the Odesa Film Studio, which was founded in 1919 as one of the first cinema centers in what was then part of the Russian Empire and later the Soviet Union. Since Ukraine's independence, the studio has been reorganized into a joint-stock company co-owned by the state.

Other Ukrainian movies also received top prizes at prestigious festivals this year.

"Babyn Yar. Context" by Sergei Loznitsa won the Golden Eye award at the Cannes Film Festival as the best documentary and has been nominated for the European Film Awards. "Mr. Landsbergis," another documentary by Loznitsa, became the best film at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).

Crime drama "Rhino" by Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian director who was imprisoned in Russia on fabricated charges for over five years, took the best film prize at the Stockholm Film Festival. Its lead actor Serhii Filimonov, leader of the nationalist organization Honor, won the prize for best actor in Stockholm and the Batumi International Art-House Film Festival.

"This Rain Will Never Stop" by director Alina Gorlova received the best documentary prize at Ireland's largest Cork International Film Festival. Last year, the film also won awards at IDFA, Festival Dei Popoli, and Beldocs Festival. 

Artur Korniienko
Artur Korniienko
Culture reporter

Artur Korniienko is a culture writer at the Kyiv Independent. He previously reported on Ukrainian literature, art, music, film and social issues for the Kyiv Post, including the controversial Babyn Yar memorial and other development projects opposed by the community. In 2021, he ran a podcast about Ukrainian migrant workers for RFE/RL on the Vaclav Havel Fellowship in Prague. With a Master's in Journalism from the Ukrainian Catholic University, Korniienko had also worked as a freelance journalist and a TV correspondent.

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