Ukrainian cinema days are over but Londoners want more!

December 18, 2015 • Articles • Views: 1188


Ukrainian Cinema Days in London which ended on Sunday 13 December has been a great first taste of an inspiring new cinema coming from this extraordinary country. London has never seen such a diverse programme of Ukrainian films – classic and contemporary, documentaries and fiction films. Popular Shoreditch venue RichMix was attended by over 600 cinema lovers, who left numerous positive comments and hoped the festival would come back next year.

Londonist included Ukrainian cinema days in the list of best film events of Christmas period


The festival was brought to London by Igor Iankovskyi Charity Foundation Initiative for the Future, Kyiv International Film Festival Molodist and the Ukrainian State Film Agency. Similar events were held earlier this year in Munich, Paris and Budapest. Organisers aimed not only to promote Ukrainian cinema, but also to support young Ukrainian filmmakers, helping them find relevant connections in the film industry around the world.

ToDoList listed Ukrainian cinema days among “Unusual things to do this weekend


The Living Fire: ‘probably the best documentary one ever seen’

The festival was opened with an award-winning documentary The Living Fire, a four-year-long project documenting three generations of Ukrainian-Carpathian shepherds. UK critics commented on the stunning cinematography and textured soundtrack, while an audience member simply said ‘it was the best documentary I’ve ever seen’. The documentary is expected to appear in London cinemas in 2016, while the crew is now fundraising for a TV version of the film.

Better than Hollywood for almost no budget

One of the best attended and highly regarded films of the festival The GUIDE tells a story of an American boy and a blind bard (‘kobzar’) in 1930’s Ukraine. To make historical scenes more realistic, the film crew had to restore 7km of abandoned narrow railroad that hadn’t been in use for nearly 100 years, renovate an old locomotive and a tractor that was built with the use of American spare parts in 1930s, as well as rebuild Kharkiv train station as it looked in 1932.The audience was impressed to learn, during the post screening Q&A with film director Oles Sanin, that this film was made with the budget of only £1.2mln, while most of the short films were made with almost no budget at all.


Music tracks from world-known stars

Ukrainian cinema is also benefiting from the use of the world known musical talents. Sergey Ryabcev from Gogol Bordello wrote most of the music for the comedy Trumpeter, while tracks from world-renowned Dakha Brakha were heard in the short film Once Upon a Mine and feature film The Firecrosser. Jamala, Ukrainian jazz and soul singer of Crimean Tatar descent starred and sang in The GUIDE.

Ukrainian contribution to the world cinema heritage

White Bird with a Black Mark, Gold Prize winner of the Moscow IFF in 1971, impressed the audience with vibrant scenes, folk music and unique filming approaches. This film is a masterpiece of the Ukrainian poetic cinema, widely considered to be one of the most important works within the Ukrainian film canon.

White Bird with a Black Mark_1

More of Ukrainian films at UK Festivals

Ukrainian Cinema Days were attended by UK film industry professionals, reviewers, UK directors and festivals managers. It is expected that Ukrainian films will appear in the programmes of various UK film festivals in 2016.

Ukrainian Cinema Days in London has been a terrific initiative. @British_Film


Reviews of Ukrainian Cinema Days

UA film industry team: 

The Festival has been great, especially the feedback from the audience. We were worried how certain moments of the films would be understood by Londoners, whether our jokes would be funny and whether our troubles would be clear. But it seems there was nothing to be worried about! Pylyp Illienko, Head of the Ukrainian State Film Agency

–  I’ve never experienced such a warm welcome from the audience as I did here at the screening of my film Trumpeter! If only you saw those kids applauding after the film. It was unforgettable! Anastasiya Mateshko, scriptwriter of the musical Trumpeter

UK Audience:

John Tan, audience member: Really enjoyed The Guide by Oles Sanin. Very powerful film! 

Christine Bardsley, British Council: THE LIVING FIRE is a beautiful film and was a great choice to open Ukrainian Cinema Days.

Jamie Orme, audience member: Overall, a great insight to Ukrainian cinema which I hope we can see more of in the years to come, and my personal thanks to all those involved in arranging it, the producers and directors who gave their time to give Q&A sessions, to everyone who attended.

Clare Reilly, audience member: The curators of this film festival deserve a standing ovation. Not only were all the films beautiful standalone pieces, but together they offered the audience a rich tapestry of modern Ukraine, and of important new voices in Ukrainian film-making.  

Megan Hodges, audience member:  I watched Zhyva Vatra on the Thursday evening. The film featured some of the most amazing landscapes around and I loved listening to the elderly shepherd reciting his poems. I’ve seen Ukrainian films before and am always impressed by their quality and wish they had a better mainstream circulation. At the same time, it’s lovely finding hidden gems! I think these sorts of events are so important in representing contemporary Ukraine abroad.

Please send us your review of the Ukrainian Cinema Days in London. We’d love to add your comment here! Email us at 

More info about Ukrainian Cinema Days in London:

Full line up  Facebook group Press Kit

Twitter/Facebook hashtag: #ukrainiancinema

Ukraine Today interview with Pylyp Illienko, head of Ukrainian State Film Agency (in Eng)

BBC interview with Pylyp Illienko, head of Ukrainian State Film Agency

Interview with Olga Beskhmelnitsyna, producer of The Living Fire

For more info please contact

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