Today, we witness the Renaissance of the Ukrainian cinema. It ranges in genres, good films win awards at world festivals, they are appreciated by the audience. More and more good Ukrainian films are screened. Opinion decided to find out what a new generation of Ukrainian directors thinks about. The heroines of the second part of the material Natalia Krasylnykova and Sasha Chuprina tell about their filmmaking career and their view on future of the Ukrainian cinema.
Natalia Krasylnykova, а documentary film director, a founder of the Travelling Documentary Film Festival Lampa.doc
In 2013, she graduated from the Kyiv Theatre University, Documentary Films Directing Department. In 2014, finished Andrzej Wajda (Warsaw) School where she also studied doc directing. In 2013 and 2014, won Polish Government Gaude Polonia scholarships for creative youth.
Films: 6 filmów o miłości, Bliżej nieba, After the Rain, Island.
Actually, I was a bit made to tell stories. Sometimes I had to retell to my grandmother episode of Brazil soap operas which she missed. I had to watch them when my granny couldn’t. So, at the age of 7, I found out what an emotional coloured story is like. Then I tried to write. But I didn’t like and still don’t like the writing process. When I was a child, I could look out of the window for hours – watching different things – those could be tree branches which were knocking on the window and asking to come in, as well as cars and people. I guess that is how a documentary director was growing up inside of me. Later, I was studying journalism and theatre studies, I wasn’t connected to the cinema at all. But life was gradually pushing me to drama and audio-visual art through writing and recording a radio play, preparing a dissertation which was connected with journalism, fiction, and documentary films.
I still remember it very clearly how I realised that I would definitely be into cinema, shoot films. It happened while I was watching the Driver for Vera film. Then I tried to enter S. Gerasimov Russian State University of Cinematography, fortunately, I failed.
When I entered the Documentary Films Directing Department, I had no directing experience. I just felt that I was in my element.
Because these are documentary films which allow you to deconstruct reality as if you even don’t interfere with it, to see it in your own way and to do a new puzzle. I also feel, know and believe in the power of cinema as in a kind of art which can make the world a better place.
I’ve told a little about my first steps. If to be more precise – it was scary. Scary to do first steps, and the scariest was to shoot for the first time. It is really about getting out of your comfort zone. I was shooting by myself one of my works while studying at the Theatre University. It was during the Ukrainian Fashion Seasons. Just imagine crowd, noise, people with absolutely different emotions – kind of a vanity fair and here I am with my camera. But it was exactly what I was there for. My worries got reflected in the film and I guess the only thing I managed to convey was the idea and emotions. But I realised that the important thing for me was the aesthetic aspect, a pretty and vivid visualisation, but this can usually be reached only with the help of a professional cameraman. It is like to find a good friend with whom you will believe in the same story, the same fairy-tale.
I had almost a three-year break in work. I didn’t shoot anything almost for three years. It happened because of several reasons, but I believe that everything in life happens for some reason. This period gave me the documentary film festival Lampa.doc. The festival appeared due to my desire to break stereotypes about documentary films, to give an opportunity to love it as I do. Lampa became very important for me, one of the reasons was that I felt: making this project, I give more to society than shooting films.
Cinema is something very private on the one hand, but on the other – it is an inner need, it is the way of learning yourself and the world. And it is important not to lie to yourself. I have never made a film being indifferent to the topic. Consciously or unconsciously, nothing touched me during that period. But this summer, I met incredible people, people whom you can admire, who you can’t fail to tell about. I can’t tell more for now because everything is very fragile yet, and I’ll keep it for myself and the team. I can only add that research, or in other words, the development of an idea, searching for a theme, is very important in making documentary films. It is the time when you build a relationship with heroes, you can begin either trusting each other or not, you get the vision of the film.
What concerns me, I would use the word “inspire”, not “touches”. I need my heroes to inspire me. I need to admire them. Because, actually, the centre of a documentary is a person.
Documentary directors often choose themes which help them to work with themselves. It is a kind of therapy. I shot my last film in the town of Lutsk (western Ukraine). It was the story about an old man, a sculptor, formally – it was an attempt to see behind the curtains of another world, mysterious and a bit exotic. However, this world is very comfortable for the hero. So personally for me, it was the story about the harmony of solitude.
I see the Ukrainian cinema getting more mature, shaping a new wave: Maryna Stepanska, Roman Bondarchuk, Dmytro Suholytky-Sobchuk, there are much more on the list. Without a doubt, I see positive tendencies. I am very happy that I can tell about Ukrainian films overseas.
Future… I am not a fortune-teller. Many factors influence development. I want to believe that these factors will be favourable.
A very important and positive fact is that people began taking cinema more seriously. And it is gradually becoming a real industry.
Life is ever-changing and time is fast – everything changes very fast. I grow up and change so does my taste. A film which could touch me in 18, today can leave me indifferent. However, sometimes it happens vice versa when you see a film you couldn’t get when you were a teenager, and only now, you are able to understand it. I can hardly be more precise answering the question “what films exactly” because I “eat” many different films. It depends on mood, circumstances, many factors, actually. Sometimes I feel a strong desire to watch some stupid comedy or a melodrama. But speaking generally about tastes, I like existential films the most, films which make you think about the sense of your life. I am into an oriental meditative, watching approach so I am fond of Asian films.
Cinema for me is a way of delving into myself, the way to widen my consciousness. It is a conversation and the way to better understand yourself because cinema is in each moment, we just need to see it.
Sasha Chuprina, a documentary film director
During the Euromaidan, she joined the #BABYLON’13 and fell in love with documentary films. In 2015, participated in USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los-Angeles – in the international workshop for documentary film directors. In 2014-2016, she worked in a non-governmental organisation “Novyi Donbas” (New Donbas).
Films: How We Became Volunteers, Bohdan’s Joy, From the Ground Up, Diary, The Pearl of Absurd
I believe that childhood is the keystone. This is what gives answers to all questions. And here I am a lucky person – I had a bright childhood. I remember many stories in detail. One of them is about cinema. At the beginning of the 2000s (when I was 5-6 years), my parents were constantly visiting a cinema club founded by Yan Usim. They visited it every Friday. At first, it was located in the Odesa Cinema (now abandoned), then Maski-Show in the House of Clowns. There were screenings of independent, European films. Once I came with them. I had my calf’s teeth falling out and I was in pain because of one that couldn’t fall out. And there I was –in a half-empty dark hall, the screen shows a story about a man who won the fight against himself and took part in some parade. Evidently, I took his braveness so I left the hall with my tooth in my hand. Believe it or not, but I got interested in the cinema at that time. When I was 10, I entered the Theatre School for Children (TSC). It was then and still is the only state out-of-school place of such kind. I was studying there until I finished high school. I can tell about this school for hours but in short, it was the centre of my life. Scenic speech, stage movement, singing, drama history, rhetoric, poetics… But acting was the key subject of course. One day, I realised that I was more interested in making up stories/situations for etudes than acting in them, I was more into controlling the process. In a while, stories just began attacking my imagination. I started to write them down in the form of short tales. Later, dad bought a Canon camera and it had a manual and video modes – and there was the beginning.
My sister had just been born, and brother was small. Dad gave me a camera and I took photos of them, recorded videos. It was the first time I saw how time moved, and how an image recorded that piece of time. Sister and brother were growing up but photos and videos kept them that small – it was magic for me. They were heroes of my first documentary films. It was approximately that time when U-cinema hall appeared in the Odesa Film Studio. “ArtHouseTraffic” brought more and more European films, parents were regularly taking me to the cinema, later, I visited it on my own. I finished the grammar school and the TSC and just after that entered the Directing Department in the Kyiv Theatre University. There new stories took place…
Now my life is a work on a full-length film about a pretty, horrible and beloved Odesa. It is my debut. The draft of the film won the 10th State Film Agency Competition Award in summer 2017. This August, we signed the agreement and started to film. You can read about the film and its news on Facebook. And I can’t but want to share my story, to show it, not to tell about it. But shooting and editing are ahead. We have much work to do.
I am keen on life and people in it. Ukraine and Ukrainians are experiencing an exciting period now. I am inspired by people who dream big, accept challenges and fight against dragons. I am touched by what makes me to be awake at nights. I also believe that stories, films, plots come to authors on their own. It is true for me. It is what goes from your inner world, it is not head but intuition which determines it. Such themes live with you, follow you. I have recently realised that Odesa theme has been following me since I was a student.
I enjoy what is happening today with the Ukrainian cinema. For me, it is like a surfer who is ascending on the waves. Today my Facebook feed contains at least several news a day about achievements of Ukrainian films in Ukraine or overseas. The world is getting acquainted with contemporary Ukrainian films, and it is great. Speaking about future and cinema, I want us to take the best European and American expertise and adapt them to our realia.
We have many gifted people, we have stories which can amuse us as well as the world… The bottom line is authors to have freedom in what and how they film. In general, I am optimistic about the future.
Frankly speaking, each film I have seen influenced me. At certain moments, they arise in my head as some frames, scenes, dialogues, sounds.
Cinema for me is a deep diving. This formulation is appropriate for the process of creation as well as for the process of watching. Making a film is being blind to everything else. Watching a film is the same. It is a certain magical world with its own laws and flow of time, a journey to other dimensions which excites you and changes you.
By Valeriy Puzik