“See Ukraine: Docudays UA travels around the world” – cultural diplomacy through documentary film


Kyiv, January 18, 2016. A new project of International Documentary Film Festival on Human Rights Docudays UA entitled “See Ukraine: Docudays UA travels around the world ” starts this week. This project offers screenings of documentary films and exhibitions of photographs about Ukraine in five European countries – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Greece,” said Yuliya Serdyukova, Project Coordinator, at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “I hope this project will strengthen the voice of Ukraine in these key European countries. In some of them, people know very little about Ukraine. Ukraine is largely unknown for them,” said Dmytro Shulha, Head of the International European Program Initiative of the International Renaissance Foundation”.

The first stage of the project will start in Paris on January 21 and will last a month. “We will show five films, a photo exhibition; also held two discussions in France,” said Ms. Serdyukova. The festival will open with film “Euromaidan. The rough cut”. It is a documentary about the events of revolutionary winter in Ukraine, produced by the Docudays UA team. Films by Serhiy Bukovsky, a classic of Ukrainian documentary, will be screened – the debut film “Tomorrow is a holiday” and “Ukraine: When A Countdown Began” about the transition from the Soviet era to the time of independence. Other films to be screened are: “Time of life: the object in the frame” by Oleksandr Balahura (Jury Prize at the festival FID Marseille), “Living Vatra” by Ostap Kostyuk (HotDocs festival prizewinner) and silent film by Dziga Vertov (Denis Kaufman) “Eleventh year” with live music accompaniment of composer Anton Baibakov and pianist Sofia Taruta.

“It is important that these are exactly documentary films. Documentary is one of our best responses to propaganda, including the Russian propaganda,” said Volodymyr Yarmolenko, philosopher and essayist. According to the expert, Russian propaganda works on the principle of voice-over: “We explain, construct and invent everything and you just absorb it.” However, in Europe they firstly appreciate the truth even if the truth is quite controversial, so it would be totally counterproductive for Ukraine to use propaganda in response to propaganda. Documentalists instead “call upon people – participants of events rather than construct a picture”.

Apart from films, the festival will present an exhibition of classic black and white documentary photography of Oleksandr Glyadelov “Hey Brother” about the Revolution of Dignity and the anti-terroristic operation.

In between films demonstrations, spectators are welcome to join discussions with film directors, producers, photographers with the participation of writers, journalists and human rights activists. According to the project authors, this is a very important component: “Such panel discussions with directors or filmmakers really trigger spectators’ interest to the problems described. This adds extra perspectives and awareness,” said Nadiya Chushak, coordinator of the human rights program Docudays. Moreover, there will be two broad discussions with the participation of Ukrainian and international experts. The first one – “What direction is Ukraine taking after the Euromaidan?” aims to broaden European citizens’ awareness of events that took place in Ukraine over the past two years. “It is very important to try stating the value of Euromaidan within the framework of this discussion. And not only for our country but for the whole European continent; to try adding this event into a broader context and global history,” informed Nadiya Chushak.

According to Volodymyr Yarmolenko, it is insufficient to put the Maidan and ATO events on the forefront because they have long been a commonplace in Europe. “Our task is to show the direction Ukraine is taking now, to show that Maidan has really given a boost to changes. Perhaps, they are not exactly as we would like them to be yet, but they are in place. Now it is essential to identify the changes and communicate them,” said Mr. Yarmolenko.

Discussion “Prisoners of Kremlin” is intended to draw international attention to 21 Ukrainian political prisoners in the Russian Federation. “Unfortunately, the international community is not fully aware of the problem scale. To some extent they are aware of the so-called «celebrity-case» of Oleg Sentsov (a filmmaker who originates from Crimea – UCMC note).

Although apart from Sentsov, there are many other prisoners, and there is an urgent need to urge Russia to free these people, because they are kept in appalling conditions, emphasized Ms. Chushak. “The international community’s pressure may be yet another factor that in one or another way can affect Russia’s position on this matter.” During this discussion a fragment of the film “Process” will be shown. This film was produced by Russian documentary film maker Askold Kurov about the Sentsov case. Besides, Maria Tomak, co-author of the project “Let my people go”, and human rights activist Stephania Kolayeva from the association “Memorial” will also participate in the discussion.

Festivals in other countries will be held during the first half of 2016 – until August. The organizers will detail the dates and program during the coming months.