If there are two countries that have been making headlines for a few months now, it is Russia and Ukraine. From Russia‘During the February 24 invasion, Western support and attention for Ukraine increased dramatically. In recent months, love for the small country has become a popular trend in American culture. However, despite national support for Ukraine against Russia, not everyone seems to understand why the two countries are really fighting each other.
Outside of its current and past relationship with Russia, most people in the United States have very little knowledge of Ukrainian culture and history. It almost feels less like Ukrainian support and more like Russian opposition, where the focus is more on this big scary oppressor than the little guy in danger of annihilation. This attitude is particularly shocking if one considers that Vladimir Putin asserted that the Ukrainian identity does not exist, a patently false assertion.
Ukrainian identity, history and culture are not only unquestionably real, but also far too fascinating for anyone to simply pass up. If someone wants to discover Ukrainian culture, there is no better way to start than with the universal art: cinema. Here are five Ukrainian films (made as a member of the USSR or as an independent state) that everyone should watch.
1. “Chase two hares” (1961)
Also known as “A Kyiv Comedy”, this vaudeville comedy directed by Viktor Ivanov is based on the play of the same name by Mykhailo Starytsky. The story follows Svirid, a barber who faces bankruptcy due to his obsessions with alcohol, gambling and women, and is threatened with imprisonment if he cannot pay his bills. He devises a plan to act like an educated upper class member to marry a wealthy, unattractive woman named Pronya, while pining for a poor, beautiful woman named Halya who looks down on him.
The movie is just a blast and near perfect, as it’s a fast-paced adventure filled with comedic slapstick, energetic performances, and delightful song-and-dance numbers from the characters. While it doesn’t intend to seek higher truth or greater themes in its text and morals, a story doesn’t need it to be good, and “Chasing Two Hares” proves it in spades. .
2. “Famine ’33” (1991)
This historical drama directed by Oles Yanchuk follows a Ukrainian family during the Holodomor – a man-made famine and genocide from 1932 to 1933 that resulted in the deaths of 7 to 10 million Ukrainians. What is depicted is not only the family’s struggle to find just a little grain, but also the thousands of suffering Ukrainians who were forced to endure starvation by the USSR under Joseph Stalin.
This dark but accurate portrayal of a sadly little-known story is one of the most important Ukrainian films ever made, as it was illegal for decades to acknowledge that there was even a famine under the Soviet Union until its dissolution. Besides its excellent execution and painful performances, the main reason to see this film is to remember its history and its lessons.
3. “Propala Hramota” (1972)
Also known as “The Lost Letter”, the film directed by Boris Ivchenko is an adaptation of the story of the same name by Nikolai Gogol. Told through the framing device of an old man telling a story about his grandfather, this tragicomedy musical follows Vasyl the Cossack and his fantastical adventures to deliver a letter to the Tsarina in Saint Petersburg, while doing facing rival Cossacks and an evil witch. .
This light and short game (only about 70 minutes long) is a delight full of dry humor, amusing songs and the sheer pleasure that comes from watching the Cossacks – no words could dare to accurately capture the awesomeness absolute that are the Cossacks, in particular The main performance of Ivan Mykolaichuk. If there’s about an hour to kill, you can’t go wrong with this Cossack classic from Ukrainian films.
4. “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” (1965)
Still under the title “Wild Horse of Fire”, the film directed by Sergei Parajanov is an adaptation of the 1911 book of the same name by Mykhailo Kotsiubynsky. In the Carpathians, Ivan falls in love with a local girl named Mirachka as their families fall out after Mirachka’s father kills Ivan’s. After Mirachka drowns, Ivan is lost in the depression and tragedy that follows him as he attempts to reconnect with society.
Originally banned in the USSR upon its release to be seen as a possible tool for Ukraine’s independence from Russia, “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” is widely regarded by critics and moviegoers as the one of the best Ukrainian films ever made. It’s a magical experience with marvelous costumes, surreal music that mixes Carpathian folk or atonalism, and jerky camera action that no one will be able to forget.
5. “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” (2015)
The most recent – some would consider the most relevant – Ukrainian film on this list is directed by Evgeny Afineevsky. ‘Winter on Fire’ follows the 2013-2014 series of protests known as Euromaidan after former President Viktor Yanukovych announced his intention to sever ties with Europe and move closer to Russia . After months of poor government response, the emergence of draconian laws and police brutality, the Dignity Revolution took place on February 18, 2014, toppling Yanukovych (who had recently fled the country) and finally establishing a new pro-government. -reform.
Nothing is held back in this raw and emotional documentary compiled from media footage, interviews, smartphone recordings, dashcams and security cameras showing the full extent of Euromaidan and its effects. What is presented are the struggles, pleas, bereavements, humiliations and losses of the brave Ukrainian people united and ready to die for their freedom. It is a heartfelt and inspiring experience that fully demonstrates, even at the time, what the Ukrainian people fought for: national sovereignty and personal freedom.