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Film festival features five acclaimed contemporary Ukrainian films Screenings and after-screening talks at Curzon Soho and Cine Lumiere, Kensington

Hosted by Ukrainian Institute London, Ukraine’s State Film Agency and Arthouse Traffic production company

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and its state funded film industry, Ukrainian cinema fell into two decades of deep decline and only began its turnaround after the 2014 Revolution of Dignity. This recent renaissance has been as remarkable as it has been rapid, with a rich variety of films being produced and drawing huge audiences and international acclaim.

Ukraine’s new generation of filmmakers are digging deep into distant and recent history, the experiences of war, politics and propaganda and modern personal stories, to produce in a wide array of genres and themes. The success of this new movement is rooted in rich tradition, as Ukraine’s new filmmakers are direct descendants of one of the world’s oldest and most eminent cinematic schools, with past masters such as Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Dziga Vertov, Sergei Parajanov, and Kira Muratova.

Because Soviet authorities strictly censored and shelved challenging storylines, many of Ukraine’s historical episodes and stories only began to see the light of day since Kyiv split with Moscow. Important past traumas such as the Holodomor – the holocaust in which millions of Ukrainians starved at the hands of Stalin in the 1930s – are only now finding their way to the silver screen for the first time.


Thrice Oscar-nominated director Agnieszka Holland (Angry Harvest, Europa Europa, In Darkness) unveils one aspect of this horrific period in her historical thriller “Mr Jones.” She tells the fascinating true story of Gareth Jones, a Welsh journalist, who first dared to expose the real story behind Stalin’s collectivisation in Ukraine and the mass famine it unleashed. Portrayed by James Norton (War and Peace, McMafia), Jones boldly manages to escape his post in Moscow and make a secret trip to Ukraine’s villages to document the starvations. Sadly, his explosive revelations prove undesirable for the Britain’s government at the time, and Jones’s reports are denied. The first ever Ukraine/UK/Poland cinematic coproduction, Mr Jones also co-stars Vanessa Kirby (The Crown). The film has already been nominated for the Golden Bear at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival and won Grand Prix Golden Lions at the 44th Gdynia Film Festival 2019.

Other key narratives of political and historical misfortune include the recent annexation of Crimea and the current war in the Donbass region. “Homeward,” the debut feature by Crimean Tatar director Nariman Aliev, is a tragic and sombre depiction of the inter-generational relationships within a family trapped and torn apart by political and ideological conflicts. The father Mustafa (played by Ukrainian actor/director Akhtem Seitalblayev) travels home to Crimea with the body of his eldest son killed in Eastern Ukraine. Mustafa wants his son buried according to Muslim tradition, and enlists his younger son, who has escaped Crimea after the invasion by Russia, to help. Shown at the ‘Un Certain Regard’ section at the Cannes Film Festival, the film has won the Grand Prix ‘Golden Duke’ at the Odessa International Film Festival. It was also selected as the Ukrainian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards. This truly compelling story has garnered widespread and strong audience reactions. Homeward’s screening in London will be presented by Luke Harding, The Guardian’s foreign correspondent, in conversation with Akhtem Seitalblayev.

“Wild Fields” is the long-awaited adaptation of Serhiy Zhadan’s cult novel “Voroshylovhrad.” A Ukrainian-Swiss-Dutch co-production and a debut feature from Yaroslav Lodygin, this film by one of Ukraine’s celebrity authors is shot in the classic Red Western genre. It tells the story of a young man who returns to his hometown in the Donbass region, initially searching for his lost brother but soon forced to resurrect the family business. This effort leads him to rediscover his own identity in a story that perfectly captures the state of Ukrainian society in this turbulent region prior to Russia’s invasion and the ongoing war. The screening will be followed by a talk with Yaroslav Lodygin.

“Volcano” is the unmissable full-length feature debut by documentary director Roman Bondarchuk. Acclaimed by both critics and audiences, this tragicomic film explores a society traumatised by war. The protagonist, Lucas, an interpreter for the OSCE, becomes lost in a remote area of southern Ukraine not far from the Crimean border. His efforts to return to safety result in ever more unfortunate and bizarre adventures, in which civilised rules and behaviour no longer seem to apply. Despite these challenges, Lucas finds himself on the verge of love and happiness. Professional actors play only the main roles and the cast is mostly made up of locals, so the film exudes authenticity. Following its world premiere at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Volcano won the Grand Prix at the Golden Apricot International Film Festival in Yerevan, Armenia. The screening will be followed by a talk with Roman Bondarchuk.

A hidden gem which never received the wide recognition it deserves, “Swan Lake: The Zone” was shot just before the collapse of the USSR. Set against the stark realities of the final stages of the Soviet era, this film recounts a complex and cruel love story between a prisoner on the run, who shelters inside an iconic hammer and sickle monument, and a women whom he accidently encounters and falls in love with. The screenplay was written by celebrated film director Sergei Parajanov and directed by Yuri Ilyenko, with memorable performances by leading Ukrainian actors of the time, Viktor Solovyov and Liudmyla Yefymenko. The film won the FIPRESCI Prize in Cannes and will be presented by Ian Christie, Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck, University of London.

Find the Ukrainian Film Days full program below or go to:  



Thursday, 5 December 2019 at 7.30PM at Cine Lumiere

Tickets £13 (£11). Book via Cine Lumiere

Ukraine/Poland/UK  2019 / 119min / dir. Agnieszka Holland, with James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, Peter Sarsgaard/ English, Ukrainian, Russian, Welsh, with English subtitles

James Norton stars as Gareth Jones, a Welsh journalist travelling to the Soviet Union on a reporting assignment in the 1930s. Jones escapes his cynical circle of media expats in Moscow and embarks on a secret trip south to Ukraine, following a tip-off about a raging famine. He encounters eerie and haunting scenes of human tragedy but his eye-witness accounts are later dismissed and denied.


Friday, 6 December 2019 at 6.30PM at Cine Lumiere

Tickets £13 (£11). Book via Cine Lumiere

Ukraine/2019/97 min/ dir. Nariman Aliev, with Akhtem Seitablayev, Remzi Bilyalov, Dariya Barihashvili, Anatoliy Marempolskiy/Crimean Tatar, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic eith English subtitles.

A road movie and family drama. A Crimean Tatar father who’s lost his son to the war between Russia and Ukraine resolves to bring the boy’s body back to the land of his birth. He and his younger son set out on a journey to their home in Crimea that will profoundly mark their relationship. This film was featured at the “Un certain regard” programme at the Cannes Film Festival. The screening will be followed by a talk with Luke Harding, Foreign Correspondent for “The Guardian.”


Saturday, 7 December 2019 at 5.30PM at Curzon Soho

Tickets £16.90 (£15.40). Book via Curzon Soho

Ukraine / 2018 / 120 min. / dir. Iaroslav Lodygin with Oleg Moskalenko, Vladimir Yamnenko, Olexiy Gorbunov, Ruslan Khazipov, George Povolotsky, Eugene Muts, /Ukrainian, Russian, dialect, with English subtitles

A story of gang fights, childhood friendships and burgeoning love, this film is based on a novel  by Ukraine’s cult contemporary writer Serhiy Zhadan. Herman returns to his small hometown in Donbas only to find that his older brother has disappeared, leaving Herman to fight for the family business — an old and rusty gas station.  Local plots are brewing in town, and Herman must decide whether to run from his problems or stay and fight for what’s his. Followed by a talk with the film director Iaroslav Lodygin.


Sunday, 8 December 2019 at 11.00am at Curzon Soho

Tickets £16.90 (£15.40). Book via Curzon Soho

Ukraine/Germany/Monaco / 2018 / 106min./ dir. Roman Bondarchuk, with Victor Zhdanov, Sergiy Stepanskiy, Khrystyna Deilyuk, Tamara Sotsenko / Ukrainian, with English subtitles

A series of odd encounters for the handsome young urban professional Lukas, an OSCE interpreter who finds himself stranded on the endless Ukrainian steppe while on a fact-finding mission for work. Confronted by a universe beyond his imagination, where life seems utterly detached from any identifiable structure, Lukas learns to survive and even falls in love. As his contempt for provincial life slowly melts away, Lukas begins to glimpse a happiness that he never knew could exist.


Sunday, 8 December 2019 at 7.00PM at Cine Lumiere

Tickets £13 (£11). Book via Cine Lumiere

Soviet Union/Canada/US/Sweden /1990 / 96min /dir. Yuri Ilyenko with Victor Solovyov, Lyudmila Yefimenko, Maia Bulgakova, Pylyp Ilyenko /Ukrainian, with English subtitles

Based on a screenplay by famous filmmaker Sergey Parajanov, this story was shot in 1990, a year before the Soviet empire collapsed. A convict is on the run and hides within a hammer and sickle monument, and when a woman comes to his aid, romance ensues. Startling imagery, complex storytelling and a haunting performance by the lead actor are a lasting testament to Yuri Ilyenko’s brilliant talent and skill as a director.

The screening will be followed by talk with Ian Christie, Birkbeck College. Moderated by Marina Pesenti, Director of Ukrainian Institute London.

Organised by the Ukrainian Institute in London in partnership with: 
Embassy of Ukraine in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Information Partner:
Ukrainian Events in London


Ukrainian Film Days are supported by Ukraine’s State Film Agency and the Embassy of Ukraine.

Its information partners are:

Ukrainian Events in London

British-Ukrainian Society

British-Ukrainian Legal Association

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