The project has started recently. First, a page appeared on Facebook, then on Instagram, and at the anniversary OIFF, the site was presented to viewers, readers, and tourists…
Filmar is a unique web-encyclopedia of the history of films made in Odesa. This is the result of the research of more than 100 years of the history of filmmaking that suggests not only finding out more about the cult films and the directors but also spicing up exploring Odesa. The project’s author of the idea is a cameraman, participant of Babylon’13 association Ihor Ivanko. The producer is Oleksandra Bratyshchenko. The editor is Olena Chepkevych.
Opinion has found out from the creators of the project, Ihor Ivanko, and Olena Chepkevych, what Filmar is, how the project is implemented, and who is in the team of this interactive filming location map of Odesa.
Why Filmar? What prompted the idea of the project? What are the peculiarities? Why Odesa?
Olena Chepkevych, “We thought for a long time about the name for the project, we tried to find the most suitable words until our photographer and cameraman Ilya Yehorov, didn’t mention how in the pre-war film editions he met Filmar (cinematographer) who was in charge of the segment in which he had a conditional dialogue about cinema with the Viewer. We liked the word. Although it came out of use, it doesn’t sound outdated as archaism or relic. In some regard, our site is a sequel to Filmar narration.”
Ihor Ivanko, “Filmar is a Ukrainian word that means the same as a cinematographer. We don’t know when it appeared, this is the question to scholars but everyone knows about the first Soviet wave of the Ukrainization and the so-called “Kharkiv Spelling” and also about the Spelling of 1933, the purpose of which was to make the Ukrainian language similar to Russian. That’s when the word came out of use.
I can’t tell what prompted the idea of the project but it was being formed for quite a while.
Everything started in Odesa, the city I was born in. My grandfather, cameraman Leonid Burlaka worked at the Odesa Film Studio since the 60s. Following his steps, I became a cameraman. Watching old films, I often noticed familiar buildings, streets in the shots. Then, I didn’t even know that Odesa and the Odesa Film Studio were for a long time the only centre of film production in the south, initially of the Russian Empire, and later on, the Ukrainian SSR. It was Odesa that concentrated the main powers of the All-Ukrainian Photo Cinema Administration, a powerful film company that dealt not only with production but also with distribution (including to Europe and the United States) of films, national rental, cinema press and education.
It was in the times of All-Ukrainian Photo Cinema Administration when the most famous Ukrainian silent films were created in Odesa and when Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Danylo Demutskiy, Amvrosiy Buchma, Heorhiy Tasin, Heorhiy Stabovyi, and many others started working in the cinema. It was at this time that Battleship Potemkin and Man with a Movie Camera were filmed in Odesa, becoming stage films not only in the history of the Soviet Union but also in the world cinema.
Even more was done in the post-war period – when such directors as Marlen Khutsyiev, Petro Todorovsky, Kira Muratova, and many others worked in Odesa.
On the one hand, these are well-known facts, but they are scattered over individual editions, publications, books, and films themselves are almost unavailable in good quality. Also, many interesting materials are stored in archives and are not accessible to a wide range of users. So I decided to make a website that will combine all this information, will be available in Ukrainian and English, and will display who and where exactly in Odesa once filmed.
I believe that in such a way the history is experienced much more. For one thing is to read a piece of text, for example, “Dovzhenko worked in Odesa”, and the other thing is to come to the same location and see that he stood there together with no less known cameramen (Demutskyi, Rona, or Zavelev) and filmed. This is an incredible feeling when you find that very place. And you’re lucky if all the buildings around are preserved, and you can easily recognize the location, because, in recent years, Odesa has changed greatly and not for the best. No war destroyed Odesa as much as it has been done by the local authorities during the last decade. Unfortunately, there is almost no resistance from the Odesa citizens who “love their city very much”. They don’t understand (especially in their offices) that with such a pace of city development, the historic center of Odesa will soon be left only in old films, and the city will look like Pozniaky, where hardly anyone wants to live or to come to rest.
That’s why this project is not only about films but also about the city.
One of the most important abilities of the photo and film is to freeze time. Old films are also a way to see in motion Odesa as it used to be. I also plan to collect old cinema chronicle of the city on the website.
For me, this project is not a try “to live in the past”. Instead, I am more concerned about the future of the city. Will it look like Kraków or Pozniaky? Will they continue shooting the films? Ukraine has to support international co-optation and cash rebate agreements, and I hope that the authorities will do so shortly. This will offer significant opportunities for foreign filming, and I want them to be not only in Kyiv. It is rather irrational to focus on film production in a city where there is no sun from the beginning of September to the beginning of June. And Filmar will remind that in Odesa they have been shooting for more than 100 years, and they have made films that are the foundation for our and world cinema.”
Olena Chepkevych, “I think that it’s very important that the center of our interest has become Odesa, it intrigues me. Though I live in Kyiv and it’s difficult for me to understand the inner logic of this city that cultural status that it has acquired by today impress. For me, Odesa looks like a huge mythical monument with ancient columns, multi-level annexes, and private balconies. There is some Odesa cliché, which has long been torn off from the origins, from the context, but is actively exploited, monetized and is now representing the city. At the same time, paradoxically, the city looks rather scruffy. As Ihor said, the development of Odesa can’t but scare.
In our opinion, it is very important that part of the citizens don’t replicate the “Odesa flavour”, but by shreds, mosaically recreate the history and authenticity of Odesa to comprehend the identity of the city.
And the cinema is a major page of this history. In times when the factual capital was Kharkiv, Kyiv was far not the cultural center. It was Odesa that attracted artists, writers, theatre directors from all over Ukrainian SSR. The life there was seething, which is now very interesting to plunge into. Yuriy Yanovsky kindly and ironically called his collection of essays about Odesa and Odesa Film Studio ‘Hollywood on the Black Sea Coast’. At some point, Odesa by the number of interweaved biographies of outstanding people reminds of Paris at the beginning of the 20th century.”
How is the project being implemented?
Ihor Ivanko, “We started to collect information about filming and to look for locations. This is a very long-lasting process. For several years I collected information, searched for it, exploring the city and when I wasn’t in Odesa, I found it on the Google Maps. There are many posts from different people who are interested in the history of Odesa, on Facebook, there is a group “Odesa I Remember”, initiated by Arsen Chelindze, “Odesa forum”, Viknaodesa website etc. Separately, we need to mention two people – Oleh Elahin and Denys Polischuk, who posted a lot about the old films.
In early May, the project was supported by the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation, and we eventually managed to start developing the site, hire people, and translating materials into English. And also we managed to shoot locations of the first films. We used special software, computer and camera, which allow combining old and modern images. This is a rather complicated and continuous process – the search of the exact filming location can last an hour, even if you know the address. Unfortunately, to film in the summer is not the best option, much is not visible through the green leaves, and because of the heat, the process gets even more complicated.
For further development, we look for partners who care about the history of cinema and the history of Odesa, understand its cultural and touristic potential and are interested in support of educational processes in the field of culture and arts.”
Who is working on Filmar?
Olena Chepkevych, “For writing new articles we have attracted leading Ukrainian film experts.
Volodymyr Voitenko became our first author, whom we can already call our ambassador and friend of the project. He helped us to finally decide on the concept, became our first author and provided us with the archival materials. Later, the film critics from the science and research department of the Dovzhenko centre joined us: Stanislav Menzelevskyi, Stanislav Bytyutskyi and Oleksandr Telyuk. The film critics Ihor Hrabovych, Yuliia Kovalenko, who is also our editor, and Lukyan Galkin also write for us.
Ilya Yehorov, (Projectionist, My Thought Are Silent, It Was Showering in Manchester), a cameraman, deals with the photos that reproduce the shots.
OIFF is a partner of the project.”
What has been done and what do you plan to do soon?
Ihor Ivanko, “We have created a website which will be developing. We have created the list of films and locations which should be on the site and, to tell you the truth – it is huge, that’s why in the nearest year and a half we will collect and publish the materials on films. During this year’s OIFF, a project presentation took place, each festival guest was able to find our cards with the site address in the bags. We plan to carefully watch whether it is convenient and clear, what else needs to be done.
Initially, the site will feature materials on 10 of the most famous pre-war films. I am sure that besides Battleship Potemkin, most people didn’t know that the rest were completely or partially filmed in Odesa. In the future, we plan to fill the site with the content of other known and unknown films. A separate section will be dedicated to the current shooting in Odesa.
We plan to attract more cinema experts who qualify in concrete topics, epos, figures to collect the most competent information. We will continue to focus on the phenomena of cinema, the functioning of the industry, film institutes, studios. That is, such a gallery of the city epochs because though the history of cinema the history of the area can be studied. We have only started a tumultuous work of the gather-collectors.”
How will the Odesa filming location map function? What platforms and media do you use?
Ihor Ivanko, “The map will be a site element that will be accessible from both the computer and the smartphone or tablet. The user can see the spots on the map where the film was shot at, clicking, he can go to the film page. Texts will be published on the film page – synopses, modern reviews (because the older the film is, the more context it needs to understand), archival materials and modern photos from the filming location, which one-to-one reproduce footage from the films.
Also, we have pages on Facebook and Instagram and plan to launch a Twitter page in English.”
Olena Chepkevych, “Filmar’s functional feature has two main segments: theoretical and interactive. Depending on a user and his preferences, he can choose what he likes most of all. The map is conveniently integrated into the mobile version of the site, that takes into account your geolocation and allows you to plan the nearest routes to your location. It has a film filter (you can arrange a tour of a particular film).”
What should a viewer/reader expect from such a web-encyclopedia?
Ihor Ivanko, “The project will open to the reader obscure pages of the history of cinema in Odesa. It will allow, as a “time machine”, to compare how the city has changed, to tell about the fates of people who worked there, and I hope it will inspire a new generation of creators.
I believe that to feel the connection with generations, especially the generations of artists is highly important. It inspires and doesn’t let down.”
Olena Chepkevych, “Over time, our site will be replenished with new articles and materials. We want to cover not only the pre-war period but also the post-war period of the cinema to have the most complete picture. Therefore, in the future, we hope that this will be the very resource that will be a reference for finding information on a fairly large cinematic snapshot – something like a starting point for research.
We also hope that with the increased film spots on the map of the city, a network of alternative ways for exploring the city will appear. It’s early to talk about it, but the constant “references” of the old Odesa in the form of comparisons with the shots could slow down or rectify the decision of the city council to change the cityscape.”
Interview by Valeriy Puzik
Photo provided by official website OIFF