At the beginning of 2016 Docudays UA has started See Ukraine european tour. This cultural diplomacy project has already visited Paris, Athens and just came back from Milan where the festival lasted from 12 to 30 of July. Yaryna Grusha, our Italian project coordinator, tells about the reception of Ukrainian documentary films and photographs in Milan.
To begin with, Italy is a country where Veneto region has recognized Crimea as Russian territory, and similar application is already filed to the Regional Council of Lombardy region. You can hear Russian language at the most famous boutique streets (it has become less often in the last two years though). Local busisnessmen are complaining about damage caused by the economic sanctions. But Ukrainian diaspora in Italy is almost 1 million people, and we were lucky to have a wonderful location for See Ukraine project - House of Memory dedicated to the victims of nazism and terrorism. Before the project opening we had many warnings about possible pro-Russian provocations. All the exhibitions and screenings were patrolled by local police in civilian clothes to secure safety of our visitors. We were lucky though, and there were no intrusions from unwanted visitors.
Project coordinators of See Ukraine Yaryna Grusha and Julia Serdiukova (right to left)
Traditionally for See Ukraine, the festival has started with a photo exhibition of Aleksander Glyadelov. Fourty black and white photos from Maidan and the battle zone in the east of Ukraine showed the revolution and the war in Ukraine, only sporadically covered by Italian mass media. But we should be honest: this topic is uncommon for Italian media not because of the “Hand of Moscow”. Unlike countries with colonial history - Britain and France - local journalists generally don’t pay much attention to international news. Italy is quite traditional and conservative country, and usually sticks to the foreign policy of diplomacy.
On the next day we invited everyone to discussion “Where are you heading, Ukraine? Two years after the Euromaidan”. With Ukrainian and Italian itellectuals we tried to put back the accents usually lost in the endless information flow. Two young Italians came to listen to the speakers. They plan on going to Ukraine in autumn to start working on their film “Ukrainian youth. What being a young Ukrainian is like”. Later we found out that many Italian directors are interested in Ukraine. Another shooting crew member came to “Euromaidan. Rough cut” screening. They have already received finances to shoot their film “From Lenin to Lennon” about current renaming of the place-names and all the burden of Ukrainian-Soviet past. Participants of the discussion after the screening on Italian side were Barbora Gruden and Valter Padovani, Italian journalists who worked at the Maidan and in Donbass, and producers Julia Serdiukova and Darya Averchenko on Ukrainian side. The discussion turned out to be the most imporant of all the festival talks. To tell the truth, information about Ukraine in Italy is still presented mosly in the political context.
Discussion after movie "Euromaidan. Rough cut": Barbora Gruden, Valter Padovani, Julia Serdiukova, Darya Averchenko (right to left)
Other screenings focused on political issues only occasionally thanks to Italian and Ukrainian speakers who invited the viewers to talk about things completely new to the local audience. For example, films like “Ukrainian Sheriffs” by Roman Bondarchuk and “The Living Fire” by Ostap Kostiuk provided an opportunity to see the Ukrainian south and west documented with their problems: extinction of the shepherd proffession and organization of the civil order in a remote village. The audience remarkably compared extinction of the sheep breeding in the west of Ukraine with the situation in Italian Alps where cheese manufacture has decreased.
During our European festival tour we usually offer to watch Ukrainian cinema classics, like black and white silent film “The Elleventh Year” by Dzyga Vertov about socialist construction in the Soviet Ukraine of 1920s. Ukrainian composer Anton Baybakov has created an original soundtack that was performed live by the pianist Sofia Turta. On the one hand the film speaks a universal language of industrialization common to many European generations, on the other it shows reality of the country as it was a hundred years ago with the eyes of one of the greatest documentalists. It’s no secret that “The Elleventh Year” is an excellently made agitation where music enables us to see emotional accents so often ignored by our ratio.
Film “The Elleventh Year”, accompanied by Anton Baybakov and Sofia Turta
Aleksandr Glyadelov, photographer:
I'm very happy that our team did the "See Ukraine" project. We couldn't just seat and do nothing while the Kremlin propaganda machine kept working at its full capacity. I presented the screenings of "Ukrainian sheriffs" "Euromaidan" and discussed them with Italians and Ukrainians in Milano. There weren't many viewers. We were glad when a 50 seat hall was full. A tall Italian came to "Ukrainian sheriffs" screening. He rolled his sleeves and showed "UPA" and "Glory to heroes" tattoos on his arms. Our eyes widened.
P.S. See Ukraine will visit Gemany and Spain in autumn. Follow the updates at the project’s website.
Фото: (c) Giuliano Susca