Famous Ukrainian film director, People’s Choice Artist of Ukraine, Director General of Dovzhenko National Film Studios, Oles Yanchuk, spoke with optimism about the future of Ukrainian cinema. He said that it is our culture that unites us and brings together Ukrainian community.
As far as I know, together with the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), you created several artistic film projects, including such films as: “Assassination. Autumn Murder in Munich” (1995), “Undefeated” (2000), “Lord Andrey” (2008). Are you planning to cooperate with them on new projects in the future?
Indeed, I am very grateful to UCCA for our fruitful cooperation. It is because of their support that these films had wide success in Ukraine, and premiered abroad, participating in many international film festivals in Europe, North America and Australia.
This year, in the month of May, I visited the U. S., and in Washington I was at the solemn celebration of UCCA’s 75th anniversary. My first wish was to thank my American partners for their trust and support for my work.
In 2013, you filmed a video report about the 65th anniversary of the first Ukrainian settlement in Australia. Did you meet any Ukrainians or from the U.S. community there, and what were your impressions?
Actually, I would call it a documentary. Sixty-five years ago, about 20 thousand Ukrainians settled in Australia. Since then they built up a strong community. But, most importantly, despite the great distance from their native country, these Ukrainians managed to preserve their cultural and religious identity. Today that community has almost 50,000 people.
I have a lot of video material about the U. S., I love America and I often meet with the Ukrainian Diaspora in different U.S. states. If you count all of my visits and time spent overseas, it consists of a period of several years of my life. I participated and presented my films at film festivals in the U.S. and Canada, visited art galleries and museums in North America, got acquainted with the work of the film industry in Hollywood.
You are the leader of the Dovzhenko National Film Studios and have previously worked there for over 30 years. You know all the weaknesses and strengths of the Ukrainian film industry. Tell us about the process of modernization of Ukrainian cinema. What are some of the difficulties you encountered?
Frankly, the modernization process is extremely difficult. In 1928 Alexander Dovzhenko and his friends built the studio as a cinema factory and it performed its functions very efficiently. Everyone understood that film is a powerful ideological weapon, a spectator art. When I came here to get a job in 1984, the studio employed 2,900 people and annually produced 12 feature-length films plus 18-20 television series. Today it employs 200 people. I feel personal pain for the studio, where I worked for thirty years. I really wanted to change the situation for the better but we are living in difficult times. Everyone is aware of the troubled economic situation in Ukraine. The war in the East has changed our priorities, bringing about negative realities. Therefore, we are forced to live through, and most importantly, to overcome this period. Later we will have the opportunity to hope for positive changes.
What are you working on right now? What direction have you chosen? Perhaps you already received some interesting suggestions for new projects?
We continue to work on the project “The Secret Diary of Simon Petlyura.” I hope that in the near future we’ll be able to move to a more active phase of creating this historic film.
“The Secret Diary of Simon Petlyura” covers the short period of UPR and the later years of one of the most famous leaders of Ukrainian revolutionary time – Simon Petlyura. Filming should take place in Ukraine and France.
What is happening at the studio? Are there new projects in production?
Today, at Dovzhenko National Film Studios we are working on two films: one film by the famous film director, Viktor Gres, called “Yom Kippur” – it’s about a major Jewish holiday known as the Day of Atonement The other film is by director, Vladimir Savelyov, called “At the Edge of the Abyss,” which is in production at the studio. The story of this film is devoted to the events of the Caribbean Crisis in 1962.
Exclusively for our magazine INLOVE, tell us about the state of being in love that you had your actors perform in many scenes. Is it really so easy to imitate being in love?
I don’t like it when actors play something. In my films they live. I am very sensitive to the slightest insincerity while working with actors. Indeed, such was the case when the leading actors actually fell in love during filming of one of our projects. I watched this exact moment when love happened. But after we finished shooting the movie, their love was soon over.
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