Modern Ukrainian Cinematography: Best Movies in English

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Modern Ukrainian Cinematography: Best Movies in English

Ukraine’s popularity is currently growing on an international cinematography scene. The country is making interesting, provocative, spectacular movies that are slowly but steadily wining audience’s attention in many countries. We round up the list of Ukrainian movies that have already received many positive reviews from popular movie critics worldwide as well as took part in various film festivals and biennales.

Winter on Fire (2015)


In just 93 days what started as a peaceful student demonstrations became a violent revolution. Netflix original documentary "Winter on Fire" brings you the story of Ukraine's fight for freedom from the frontlines of the 2014 uprising.

Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die (2017)

Often dubbed as a "modern-day Dunkirk", Cyborgs is a story of a several-week-long military duty in September 2014. A group of military volunteers comes to Donetsk Airport for the first time - the Airport has been held by Ukrainians for more than four months of war. The movie depicts one of the keystones of the Russian-Ukrainian War - Donetsk Airport defense. It lasted for 242 days. Ukrainian soldiers defended it with limited manpower, under heavy daily shelling. Many died. Those who survived were called "cyborgs" for their strength and resistance. They had to leave airport buildings only after they were totally demolished by Russian heavy artillery. Watch the movie and no longer say you don't know what is still going on in Ukraine.

The Tribe (2015)



The Tribe is a brutal, bewildering debut feature of filmmaker Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy centered on a Ukrainian boarding school for the deaf. The tale is told entirely through the sign language without any spoken dialogue. The unique, unflinching thriller focuses on the school's teenage gang members who rob, rape and murder under the tutelage of a corrupt woodshop teacher. After one of the students, a pimp who oversees two teenage prostitutes from the school, is killed, the new kid on campus Sergey takes his place. Problems arise when he falls in love with Anna, one of the escorts. Slaboshpytskiy used his actual elementary school as the film's main location. The grimly compelling movie is a winner of multiple 2014 Cannes Film Festival Awards, including the coveted Critics' Week Grand Prix.

Sappho / Summer Lover (2008)

Sappho is a provocative and passionate love story set in the 1920s. Millionaire's daughter Sappho Lovell arrives on the Greek island of Lesbos for her honeymoon with her artist-husband Phil. There she meets Helene, the daughter of a Russian archaeologist, and falls in love with her. As the three lovers live out a complex girl-boy-girl sexual triangle, Sappho also comes to believe that she is the reincarnation of the ancient poetess Sappho, who first put the "lesbian" in Lesbos. However, the modern heroine does realize how the ancient Sappho's legend ends.

The Guide (2014)


The movie is set in the Soviet Ukraine in the early 1930s. The script is based on a dramatic journey of an American boy Peter Shamrock and a blind musician Ivan Kocherga. Peter is a ten-year-old boy in the midst of turbulent Soviet Ukraine. His father, an American engineer, is killed for obtaining secret documents about the repressions, which now are hidden in Peter's book. The boy flees from the police with a blind kobzar (Ukrainian folk minstrel), Ivan Kocherga. Ivan does everything to help his young guide to grow up and survive with a kind and clear soul that will not be hardened by what his eyes have seen. He tells his young guide elaborate stories that make him believe there can be a different reality from what he sees around him. We are challenged to admit the blind kobzar may see the world with greater clarity than those with perfect eyes. They met each other during the collectivization and Holodomor. 

Haytarma (2013)


Haytarma is the first feature film about Stalin’s deportation of the Crimean Tatars. The forceful eviction of nearly 200,000 people (238,500 by other accounts), most of whom were women and children started on 18 May 1944. They were given only 30 minutes to pack their belongings before being exiled to Central Asia. Nearly half of them perished in the difficult journey, not being able to withstand the heat, lack of water, and inhumane conditions of the cattle wagons transporting them to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan. Other national minorities in Crimea such as the Germans, Bulgarians, Armenians, and Greeks were evicted as well. Produced by the Crimean Tatar channel ATR, which has now been forced to leave Crimea and directed by Crimean Tatar filmmaker Akhtem Seitablaiev, Haytarma won the prize of the Kimera International Film Festival in the Italian city of Termoli for “Best Director” and “Best Film” and is the winner in the category “Best Feature Film” at the Trieste Film Festival in Italy. In 2016, Ukrainian singer Jamala won Eurovision Song Contest with her song 1944, which became instantly associated with this movie as Jamala is of a Crimean Tatar origin.
Cover image: unsplash.com.

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