The event will include screening of selected clips from the film and a discussion. The discussion will be in English and will be followed by a Q&A. Moderated by Marina Pesenti, Director of the Ukrainian Institute.
The story of Ukraine’s Great Famine known as The Holodomor is about to be told to cinema audiences as “Bitter Harvest”, a full feature film by Ian Ihnatowycz, is going into general release across many countries. In the UK, the film will hit the big screens on February 24, 2017. This is the first attempt to tell the world a story of mass starvation of millions of Ukrainians in 1932-33 through brutal policies of collectivisation, initiated by Josef Stalin. The film, produced and directed by two Canadians of Ukrainian descent, Ian Ihnatowycz and George Mendelyuk, tells the story of a handsome Ukrainian couple, Yuri and Natalka, getting sucked into the horrors of collectivisation and famine and eventually escaping to the West. The event offers an opportunity to meet the film producers to discuss what the production process involved and on key challenges producers faced in telling a story so central to the Ukrainian identity to the global audience.
Ian Ihnatowycz, Producer Ian Ihnatowycz is the sole financier and a principal producer of Bitter Harvest . This is Ian Ihnatowycz’s first venture into the film industry and has been a project close to his heart as the tale sheds light on one of the 20th Century’s greatest tragedies: Joseph Stalin’s brutal and deliberate starvation of the Ukrainian people in 1932/33 – an act of genocide which to this day remains shrouded in secrecy and misinformation. Being a first generation Canadian-Ukrainian, Ian grew up with a first-hand knowledge of Stalin’s Reign of Terror through the stories of his grandparents who left Ukraine in the 1940s, his heritage fuelling his passion for this project.
Toronto-based, Mr. Ihnatowycz is an entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in the investment management industry. Formerly Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Acuity Investment Management Inc. and Acuity Funds Ltd., Acuity was the first Canadian advisor to the United Nations on the integration of environmental, social and governance factors within investment management, and the firm had won many awards for investment performance.
Following the sale of Acuity in 2011, Mr. Ihnatowycz founded First Generation Capital Inc., which has investments in a number of cutting edge medical, biotech and high tech companies. It also incubates new ventures, backing the next generation of entrepreneurs. An established philanthropist in his community, he also actively participates on the Boards of several not for profit institutions in the areas of arts and education (member of the Advisory Boards of the Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership and the Ivey Business School; member of the Board of Directors of the Royal Conservatory of Music). Honourary distinctions include: Fellow of the Royal Conservatory of Music (2007) and Hon. Doctor of Philosophy, Ukrainian Free University, Munich (2009), and Honorary Doctor of Laws, Western University (2013).
George Mendelyuk, Director, Co-Writer and Producer George Mendelyuk has directed a number of industry greats during his distinguished career, including Christopher Plummer, William Shatner, Hal Holbrook, Ava Gardner, Terrence Howard, Anne Archer, Josh Brolin and Terence Stamp. An international talent with a strong commitment to the international market, Mendeluk has traveled extensively to film in Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Spain, Ukraine and England. He has received five Gemini Award nominations, including Best Director, and won awards at the New York Film & Television Festival. Growing up in Canada, Mendeluk was unable to speak English until he was 5 years old. Suffering from bullying and discrimination, his only escape came in the magic world of cinema. Mesmerized by the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, John Wayne and Marilyn Monroe, Mendeluk made a promise to himself that he would write and direct films and live in Malibu.
The immigrant boy who couldn’t write or speak English graduated college with a degree in English and became a writer-director. Mendeluk began his career in 1972 as a comedy writer for Lorne Michaels of “Saturday Night Live” fame. In 1980 he directed his second feature, which was shot in part in Hollywood with a cast that included William Shatner, Hal Holbrook and Ava Gardner. Since then he has worked in a wide variety of genres with such influential producers as Michael Mann, Dick Wolf and David Chase, amassing an array of film and television credits. Happily married for over 36 years, George and his wife Victoria have three sons and a daughter.
Based on one of the most overlooked tragedies of the 20th century, Bitter Harvest is a powerful story of love, honour, rebellion and survival as seen through the eyes of two young lovers caught in the ravages of Joseph Stalin’s genocidal policies against Ukraine in the 1930s. As Stalin advances the ambitions of communists in the Kremlin, a young artist named Yuri (Max Irons) battles to survive famine, imprisonment and torture to save his childhood sweetheart Natalka (Samantha Barks) from the “Holodomor,” the death-by-starvation program that ultimately killed millions of Ukrainians. Against this tragic backdrop, Yuri escapes from a Soviet prison and joins the anti-Bolshevik resistance movement as he battles to reunite with Natalka and continue the fight for a free Ukraine. Filmed on location in Ukraine, this epic love story brings to light one of the most devastating chapters of modern Europe. The stellar cast also includes Barry Pepper, Tamer Hassan and Terence Stamp.