- FESTIVAL EXHIBITION
- FESTIVAL LAUNCH AND OPENING WEEKEND
- BETWEEN TIMES: MARC KARLIN WEEKEND
- TRACING THE ANABASIS OF THE JAPANESE RED ARMY
- LEVELS OF DEMOCRACY: UKRAINE FILM WEEKEND
- RESISTANCE: BRITISH DOCUMENTARY FILM
- ARTISTS' RESIDENCIES AND TALKS
- KRIS CANAVAN: LABOUR ISN’T WORKING
Rare short films made during perestroika, when documentary film could again have a social and political role. Tomorrow it’s a Holiday by Serhii Bukovsky is a bold reflection on the way the Soviet production system turns women workers into commodities at a poultry plant. Levels of Democracy by Heorhii Shkliarevsky documents mass actions on the streets of Kyiv between 1989 and 1991 just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. A Farewell to Cinema depicts post-Soviet society’s abandonment of cinema in favour of the free market. Mic-ro-phone! was made after Chernobyl revealing the influence it had on the legitimisation of Ukraine’s independence.
These newly restored films are presented in partnership with the Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre.
Levels of Democracy
The social changes on the verge of 1980s and 1990s were so abrupt, that for many filmmakers civic duty and creative practice had merged into the job of reporting and documenting current events. The co-called ‘film chronicle’ – documenting current social and political events in order to preserve them in the archives of history – became one of the most important film genres. Levels of Democracy by Heorhii Shkliarevsky is a documentary based on these ‘film chronicles.’ The film is a distanced observation of various mass actions in the streets of Kyiv between 1989 and 1991. However, as time passed the film had unexpectedly turned into an accurate commentary on the paradoxes of the transition from Soviet communism to Ukrainian independence. The most significant of these paradoxes is represented by the very selection of film material. Just before the collapse of the USSR, the protest actions took place mostly under nationalist slogans, while the social dimension of protest was practically ignored. The social, materialistic demands came into focus in late 1991, when the Soviet social system had already collapsed. In psychoanalytical terms the development of Ukrainian independence turns out to be a classic case of ‘realisation of desire’ – embodied in reality, the object of desire does not lead to anything but frustration.
Levels of Democracy, dir: Heorhii Shkliarevsky, 1992, Ukrainian Documentary Film Studio, 30min. Courtesy Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre.
A Farewell to Cinema
Since the early 1990s, many filmmakers not only contemplated and documented the mass actions of protest – they had to organise their own demonstrations, demanding to be able to make films. Their coming out, from behind the camera lense into the public space is documented in Israel Goldstein’s A Farewell to Cinema, a film that summarises the whole history of Soviet documentary filmmaking. In the early 1990s the ideological and propaganda functions of documentary film were perceived just as obsolete as the critical potential of the non-fiction film. A Farewell to Cinema depicts the process of post-Soviet society’s abandonment of one of the most powerful instruments of criticism in favour of a commercialised media sphere, subjected to the ideology of the free market. The ‘critical’ wave of Ukrainian documentary film ironically ended with a film about the way cinema ceased to exist.
A Farewell to Cinema, dir: Israel Goldstein, 1995, Ukrainian Documentary Film Studio, 30min. Courtesy Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre.
Tomorrow it’s a Holiday
Tomorrow it’s a Holiday, the film debut of Serhii Bukovsky, broke the path for the ‘critical school’ of Ukrainian documentary film. The context of the film’s production was in itself symptomatic: its director received an order to shoot a typical ‘production film’ about a small provincial poultry plant, which struggled hard to bring its production plan to life. Instead, Bukovsky created a bold (for early perestroika), reflection on the way the Soviet production system turns workers themselves into commodities. The representation of gender issues in this film could cause as much controversy as its extremely unconventional, by Soviet standards, representation of labour: all of the film’s characters are female and work hard at the plant, with the exception of the plant’s director. In their monologues, the film’s heroines explicitly refuse to accept the state’s attempts to reduce them to the level of soulless automatons. In Bukovsky’s film, these women are the embodiment of the Soviet working class at large: officially liberated, but in fact locked in the situation of double exclusion – since the Soviet women, just as the whole of Soviet working class, were deprived not only of their basic rights, but also deprived of the possibility to fight for these rights.
Tomorrow it’s a Holiday, dir: Serhii Bukovsky, 1987, Ukrainian Documentary Film Studio, 20min. Courtesy Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre.
The film was made after the Chernobyl nuclear accident of 1986, which immediately became not only an environmental but also a geopolitical event. A symbol of the inefficiency of the Soviet Union it was a key element in the legitimisation of Ukraine’s independence having significant influence on the formation of the independent state. Mic-ro-phone!,released two years after the accident, is a classic perestroika film focusing of the search for truth hidden by the Soviet regime. However, the film avoids the epic dimension typical of many Chernobyl films and functions on a micro level. This shift to micro-history is reflected in the film’s title: ‘Micro' (radiation) and 'phone' ('fon' meaning 'background' in Ukrainian). This dramatic and sincere film was awarded several international awards, such as the International Federation of Film Critics Award, Oberhausen (1989) and Grand Prize at Freiburg Film Festival (1990).
Mic-ro-phone!, dir: Heorhii Shkliarevsky, 1988, Ukrainian Documentary Film Studio, 20min. Courtesy Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre.
Presented as part of Levels of Democracy: Ukraine Film Weekend, more information about all the films in the series here.
Film Pass Three: Levels of Democracy: Ukraine Film Weekend
Fri 18 – Sun 20 March
£30 Full Price / £25 Concession
Includes entrance to all films in the series. Offer excludes Test Dept live soundtrack, separate tickets available here
Film Passes can only be booked via the Tyneside Cinema Box Office.