Nine powerful films about Ukraine to add to your watch list

 

Culture, History, Russian Aggression, Ukraine

Article by: Yuliia Rudenko
Edited by: Alya Shandra, Yuri Zoria

Do you think history is boring? Euromaidan Press picked up the nine best homegrown and foreign films about Ukraine’s breathtaking present and historic past to prove you wrong. We guarantee that in this list you will find your cup of tea. These movies are available online in English or with English subtitles..

1. Chernobyl (2019)

Chernobyl [DVD] [2019] - Best Buy

Cover for the film Chernobyl

The official trailer is available via the link.

Chernobyl is a five-episode historical drama series written by Craig Mazin and directed by Johan Renck. It was created by HBO in the United States and Sky UK in the United Kingdom.

Chornobyl: Reality and fiction in the popular miniseries, according to eyewitnesses

Chernobyl follows the 26 April 1986 disaster caused by the explosion and further destruction of reactor No. 4 in the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, near the city of Prypiat, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

The Chornobyl catastrophe appears to be the worst nuclear disaster in history. It is one of the two world’s most severe nuclear accidents rated maximum on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

Tragically, the Soviet authorities concealed information about the accident. Thus, many people would go out on the streets right after the accident, while they should have stayed safe and sound at home.

The film revolves around the stories of those who contributed to the disaster and who helped eliminate its consequences.

Watch the series in English on Hulu.

2. Mr. Jones (2019)

Cover for the film Mr. Jones

Trailer on YouTube.

Mr. Jones is a biographical thriller created by Polish film director Agnieszka Holland. The movie was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival.

This film depicts the story of Gareth Jones, an English journalist famous for his interview with Adolf Hitler. In 1933, Mr. Jones plans to visit Moscow for an interview with Stalin to learn about the Soviet economic plans. Instead, he discovers the grim reality withheld by the USSR from the rest of the world — the Holodomor.

Holodomor (derived from the Ukrainian words holod ‘hunger,’ and mor “extermination”) refers to a devastating artificial famine in Ukraine that was deliberately plotted and put forward by the Soviet Russian authorities, leading to millions of deaths. The purpose behind this targeted killing by starvation was to suppress the Ukrainian opposition against Stalin’s regime and for independent Ukraine. The Holodomor was recognized as genocide against the Ukrainian people by 16 countries as of 2020.

Watch the movie in English on Amazon Prime.

3. Ukraїner (2019)

Screenshot from the film Ukraїner

Watch the official trailer here.

Ukraїner is your opportunity to discover exclusive stories available in the Ukrainian family archives. The movie was produced by Ukrainer, cultural multimedia launched in 2016 as an initiative for multiculturalism, geographical discoveries, and intellectual media enthusiasts.

Meet Ukraїner, “project that tells the world about the least discovered country in Europe”

Ukraїner stitches together six stories showing a typical day of a Ukrainian, making the viewers feel at home and be a part of the lives of protagonists.

According to movie creators, “The main characters are not connected with each other, and the worlds they live in are completely different. Those differences are the glue that keeps this country together and unites it.”

Watch the movie for free on the Ukraïner website or on YouTube. The movie is available in Ukrainian, with English subtitles.

4. Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die (2017)

Кіборги. Герої не вмирають | Takflix

Cover for the film Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die

Trailer.

Directed by Akhtem Seitablayev, Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die is a Ukrainian war drama about the Second Battle of Donetsk Airport during the war in the eastern areas of Ukraine, historically known as the Donbas.

“Cyborgs” is a name given to Ukraine’s valiant defenders of the Donetsk Airport by Russians. Ukrainian forces re-took the Donetsk Airport in May 2014. By the end of the year, it was the only part of the Donetsk city held by the Ukrainian army. In violation of the ceasefire agreed by signing the Minsk I Protocol, the Donetsk Airport became a place of a fierce battle for its symbolic significance. By the time the Ukrainian forces had to leave the airport in January 2015, it remained a ruin. Donetsk Airport’s control tower became a symbol of the Russian-Ukrainian war.

New Ukrainian ‘Cyborgs’ war film chronicles heroic defense of Donetsk Airport

Cyborgs: Heroes Never Die director Akhtem Seitablayev brings together the stories of soldiers who have diverse experiences to show war and existential issues from different perspectives.

Watch the movie in English on YouTube.

5. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964)

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors - Kino Lorber Theatrical

Cover for the film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

Trailer at the link.

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors was directed by Serhiy Paradzhanov, one of the most prominent filmmakers in Ukrainian history.

The movie is considered a huge break from the USSR socialist-realist style, which is why Serhiy Paradzhanov was jailed a few times. This made him a well-known filmmaker in the world.

The movie tells a story of fated love between children of rival families living in the Carpathians mountains, the far west of Ukraine. With a plot of this kind, the film is often referred to as “Romeo and Juliet of the Carpathians.”

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors will immerse you in the untouched Ukrainian culture, with its authentic customs, folklore, and traditional sorcery.

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors was filmed in the Hutsul dialect of Ukrainian. It was one of the few films in the USSR released in its original language.

Insanely popular in 1964 upon its release, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors even today holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and has the solid 8.0 on IMDB.

Watch it on YouTube in Ukrainian, with English subtitles.

6. Homecoming (Haytarma) (2013)

Cover for the film Homecoming (Haytarma)

Watch the trailer here.

Haytarma («return» or «homecoming» in Crimean Tatar) is a Ukrainian historic drama directed by Akhtem Seitablaiev who also played the main part in this film. Haytarma is also the name of a Crimean Tatar national dance.

The movie is the first Crimean Tatar full-length feature film and the first feature film about the Crimean Tatars’ forced deportation of 1944, carried out by the Soviet authorities and recognized as an act of genocide by Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, and Canada.

Haytarma: the film about Stalin’s deportation of the Crimean Tatars Russia doesn’t want you to see | Watch online

Homecoming (Haytarma) tells the story of this tragic historic event. Over 180,000 Crimean Tatars were forced to pack within minutes, get stuffed into cattle cars for a one-month journey, to be exiled for their lifetime to Middle Asia. The trains were stifling, as the cars had no windows. The deportees were provided with a poor amount of food and water. This led to nearly 8,000 deaths of Crimea Tatars on their way to Uzbekistan, the major end-point of their forced journey.

It wasn’t up until the collapse of the USSR when now independent Ukraine allowed the Crimean Tatars to return to their native land of Crimea. But their joy evaporated with the Russian occupation of the Peninsula in 2014, which led to the “hybrid deportation” of the indigenous people of Crimea.

The Kyiv Post described Haytarma as a “must-see movie for history enthusiasts.”

Watch the film in Ukrainian with English subtitles on YouTube.

7. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (2015)

Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom (2015) - IMDb

Cover for the film Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

See the trailer via the link.

Winter on Fire is a 2015 documentary about the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity or Euromaidan protests (2013-2014) by Evgeny Afineevsky. The Revolution against the corrupt pro-Russian president and the government was provoked by the police violence in response to a peaceful student protest against the authorities’ decision to reverse the European course of Ukraine.

Winter on Fire was partially produced by Netflix, Ukraine, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

The 72nd Venice International Film Festival saw the movie’s premiere. It won the People’s Choice Award for best documentary at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

WINTER ON FIRE: Oscar-Worthy Documentary on Ukraine’s Euromaidan Revolution

This film is based on a series of interviews of the protesters, activists, medical workers, artists, and religious leaders representing different generations, social groups, nationalities, and religions. Winter on Fire is about Ukrainians who fought for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law while facing the cold winter conditions, the brutality of special forces, and despair.

Watch the movie on Netflix in English.

8. Generation Maidan: A Year of Revolution & War (2015)

Cover for the film Generation Maidan: A Year of Revolution & War

Generation Maidan is a documentary by eight-time Emmy winner Andrew Tkach who captures all the action during the Revolution of Dignity, from the peaceful protests in Ukraine’s capital to bloody sniper attacks by government forces on the protesters, and the eventual victory of the determined activists.

Andrew Tkach arrived to film events in Kyiv with UK’s Channel 4 after the violence culminated. His crew was Babylon’13, a Kyiv-based group of volunteers who made the footage of the revolution’s main events.

This one video tells about a year of revolution and war in Ukraine

The first 30 minutes of the film are made from 50 hours of Babylon’s raw footage and his interviews. The second half of Generation Maidan tells the stories of the Euro Maidan activists who went to the war zone after the revolution, were seized and tortured by Russian-hybrid forces in Donbas.

The film received great reviews at the Geneva human rights festival.

Andrew Tkach has used his piece to raise money for prosthetics for Ukrainian soldiers wounded in the war.

You can see the film online on Vimeo, or on YouTube, (or here in Ukrainian).

 

9. The Hunger for Truth: The Rhea Clyman Story (2018)

Cover for the film The Hunger for Truth: The Rhea Clyman Story

Trailer.

The Hunger for Truth tells the story of Rhea Clyman, a Canadian journalist who was the first to report on the 1932-33 genocidal famine in Ukraine. She wrote at least 22 articles about this artificially made hunger in Ukraine and in the Kuban that caused 3.9 million deaths in Ukraine alone. For shedding light on Stalin’s crimes for the Western audience, she was named a “Bourgeois Troublemaker” and removed from the Soviet Union.

Published in the Toronto newspaper, Clyman’s 1932 articles were discovered only several years ago by a research assistant at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS), University of Alberta. Then, tremendous work was put into finding other articles by Clyman under the guidance of Jars Balan, CIUS director. That is how the full story of the journalist was pieced together.

Not so long ago, the world saw the story of Clyman when in 2018, American filmmaker Andrew Tkach and Babylon’13 created the documentary The Hunger for Truth: The Rhea Clyman Story.

The Hunger for Truth: Documentary about Canadian journalist who was first to report about Holodomor

The film is based on the original texts of Clyman’s articles. And the visual is created from episodes of some Soviet films and 3D animation of the archival photos.

The documentary echoes the ongoing Russian aggression in the eastern part of Ukraine which has killed over 14,000 people, as Ukrainian fighters give their lives every day. The Hunger for Truth manifests how much has remained unchanged since 1932.

Watch the documentary film in English for a nominal fee of $1 on Vimeo.

Related:

Edited by: Alya Shandra, Yuri Zoria

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