PR-director and member of Docudays UA Selection Committee, screenwriter and producer, Dar’ya Averchenko, talks about this year's festival specials.
The concept for this year’s festival is There is a Choice. Why did you select this particular topic?
Six months ago, there was a parliamentary election in our country and we think it is very topical to speak about choice right now, and not only political choices, but also personal choices. Each person should take an active position in life. Formation of this position is aided by knowledge about existing possibilities and realizing the consequences of personal choice; otherwise, a person will be weak and easy to manipulate, and those who want to use the person will be able to buy their vote for a hundred hryvnias. A society of weak people is incapable of choice, of forming a state, of protecting their rights.
The issue of choice is raised constantly, in peacetime as well as in the time of revolution. We will be discussing the issue of choice for three evenings in the Red Hall of the Cinema House. When we were creating the special program There Is a Choice, first of all we were focused on the situation of our neighboring countries, Russia and Belarus. Through them, we can understand ourselves better. You have probably heard about the ‘Minsk Maydan’ in 2011, but did our media tell us a lot about how this peaceful protest ended? We will be given this information in the film Enough! To Freedom… by Andrei Kutsilaand Viachaslau Rakitski. For a wholeyear after Vladimir Putin was elected President of the Russian Federation, three documentary filmmakers were watching the changes in the country, the opposition protests, and that’s how the online project The Term was created. One of them, Pavel Kostomarov, even had his place searched by the Investigative Committee. Kostomarov himself will tell us about this, and also about the things that the filmmakers saw in the midst of the peaceful revolution. The program will open on Saturday, March 23, with the filmA Whisper to a Roar by the American filmmaker Ben Moses. The director went to Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Venezuela and Egypt, trying to understand how the countries that underwent revolutions can preserve democracy. We are interested in this film because one of the five countries that Ben Moses filmed in was Ukraine. He interviewed some well-known journalists, namely Andriy Shevchenko and Svyatoslav Tseholko, who talked about the Orange Revolution and the current situation in Ukraine. The author dedicated his film to Václav Havel.
Is the opening film Fortress connected with the films in the There Is a Choice program?
The opening film is directly connected with this year’s Docudays UA topic, because it speaks about the election in Transnistria – an unrecognize drepublic, which we currently know practically nothing about. Meanwhile, over five hundred thousand people are stuck there in time and space. After the film, it becomes obvious that Transnistriais an islet of people who are captives, deceived, and criminally limited in their capabilities, with a crazy oligarch on top who has been ruling everything and everyone for almost 20 years. And this entire conflict of the unacknowledged republic is being supported artificially, so that Russia can reach into Moldova, Ukraine and the whole of Europe from there. I am very sorry to say this, but the situation in Transnistria is painfully similar to the situation in Ukraine. If we do not resist today’s reality, we will soon see the same stagnation and depression. Fortress is a warning film for us.
And what’s new on the competitionprograms of Docudays UA?
This year we’ve decided to shorten the full-length competitions DOCU/LIFE and DOCU/RIGHT to 7 films, instead of 15 as it was last year. First of all because of our limited resources, and also, we wanted to focus more on themed programs and discussions. We don’t want our audience to be just passive viewers, we need them to start thinking, ask questions, go make films themselves. Some people have to make posters and go out in the streets, and others can film this and post it on YouTube as a true-to-life version of events, ignoring the media, which are becoming less objective the further on we go. This is also a way to resist. We’ve tried to make our participants’ geography more diverse. We’ve always had many films from Germany, Poland, Israel – these are cinematic countries, which regularly produce cool movies. However, we want to show the Ukrainian audience films by Romanian, Lithuanian, Finnish, Icelandic filmmakers. We’ve focused on new, current topics – the financial crisis, revolutions in Arab countries, the human rights of disabled people, problems of ex-convicts in freedom, and many others. For example, we will be showing film Iceland, Year Zero, which shows how the Icelandic people survived financial crisis. Believe me, this film will astonish you! We will witness the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, who express themselves through punk music in a hilarious film The Punk Syndrome. I think that viewers will be leaving the hall with the feeling: how little I know about this world!
This will be the tenth year of Docudays UA, and for you the sixth year on the festival team. Are you satisfied with festival growth?
The festival is becoming better, higher-profile; we are inspiring people to take cameras in their hands and film. I can see this from the number of Ukrainian films that have been sent to us for selection. There are two Ukrainian series on the program of Docudays UA 2013: Beyond the Euros and Open Access. If I didn’t see that people needed Docudays UA, that it has a great influence on them and gives them a lot of passion, I wouldn’t be working here. I am also saying openly that my work on the festival is my personal form of resistance to things happening now in my country. In order to fight for our own rights, we have to understand historical, economic, political processes, have to feel our planet and people living on it. After the festival week, the world becomes closer.
What other films will be shown at this year’s Docudays UA?
The competition program includes two short films: an extremely successful debut Sirs and Misters by Oleksandr Techynsky, and The Dream by Daria Driuchenko. As a special event, we are showing Life Span of the Object in Frame by our jury member, Oleksandr Balahura. There’s also the film cycle A Farewell to Cinema, which includes classics of our documentaries by Goldstein, Bukovsky, Shkliarevsky. And many more. There were good Ukrainian films that we wanted to include in the full-length competition, but their authors want to try to get into Cannes first. And one of the conditions of the Cannes Film Festival is that the world premiere of the film has to take place there.
You often visit documentary film festivals all over the world. What is the place of Docudays UA among them?
We do not claim to be an ‘A’ class festival yet, like IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam), for example. In order to become noteworthy on the documentary film map in the same way as our Dutch colleagues, we need to have a film industry in Ukraine. We need to become interesting partners for co-productions, which also means learning to do business. We are only taking our first steps in this direction. On the other hand, we never were and never will be just a human rights festival, even though we are part of the human rights film festival network. Our shoulders bear the responsibility of supporting and developing the documentary genre in Ukraine. Today, we are the only ones who are doing something in the educational field. And this is extremely interesting! For the second time we will be holding our DOCU/CLASS seminar. This is really a unique opportunity to listen to professionals in the area of documentary films from all around the world, as today Docudays UA is the only documentary platform in the country. Documentaries are becoming more and more topical: they are simpler, it’s easier to shoot them, they are irrefutable documents, they cannot be called ‘screenwriter’s fantasies’. And so, they are extremely convincing, they can touch our deepest feelings and change our perception. In a world that keeps getting faster every day, documentary films will always be on top of the wave.
Interview by Vikor Hlon