T h e U k r a i n i a n M u s e u m
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Kinofest NYC 2010 Film Festival Opens Museum Doors to New Audiences
The four-day Kinofest NYC film festival premiered at The Ukrainian Museum on Thursday evening, February 25. The festival was a celebration of contemporary cinema from Ukraine and other countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. It featured six screening sessions, each highlighting stories and film from post-Soviet countries in Eastern Europe.
Opening night featured guest presenter Jonas Mekas, filmmaker and founding director of New York's Anthology Film Archives, one of the largest and most important repositories of avant-garde films in the world. Mekas was introduced by Annette Michelson, founding member of NYU's Department of Cinema Studies, who described Mekas's pioneering role in the New York City film community. After the screening of Mekas's film Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania, which describes his 1971 return to his native land, which he fled during World War II, an engaging Q & A session allowed the audience to interact with these two incredible film legends.
Friday evening's program was directed by Dr. Yuri Shevchuk, founder of the Ukrainian Film Club of Columbia University. Shevchuk provided the introduction to Kyiv-based filmmaker Viktoria Melnykova's recently completed documentary Fourth Wave, which focuses on the latest wave of Ukrainian immigration to the West. Melnykova's film tells the story of a talented Ukrainian musician who immigrates to Western Europe in order to fulfill his professional dream a dream unattainable in modern-day Ukraine. In addition to offering commentary on Melnykova's film, Shevchuk provided an update on other film initiatives his film club is undertaking.
Saturday's film program was a double screening: early Saturday evening featured guest curator Bohdana Smyrnova, a local filmmaker who has trained at film schools in both Kyiv and New York City. Smyrnova provided viewers with a treat: animations and film shorts created by young Ukrainian filmmakers based in Ukraine. She also described the difficulties many young filmmakers face in Ukraine in light of the financial crisis and lack of public financing for independent film.
The second Saturday session featured the presentation of the film Power Trip, an exceptional documentary about independent Georgia's struggle for energy independence. The film highlighted the dilemma facing many energy-poor former Soviet republics that increasingly find themselves dependent on energy supplied by their eastern neighbor. The film's director, Paul Devlin, introduced his film to a packed audience and led the subsequent Q & A session, offering detailed insight to his story and filming experiences.
Sunday's double bill featured several film shorts and two feature documentaries: including Solidarity, a narrative short about the anti-communist struggle in Poland, and the 2006 film A Lesson in Belorusian, created by Polish filmmaker Mirosław Dembiński. The audience for the latter film included Belarusan activists who, during the Q & A period, described the Belarusan resistance to the Lukashenko regime.
Prof. Alexander Motyl of Rutgers University served as guest presenter for the closing night session, which featured the newly completed films Pictograph and I Am a Monument to Myself, both of which took new approaches to understanding life in Ukraine. The final film screened was Taras Tomenko's Felliniesque fantasy A Parched Land, which was immediately followed by a celebratory reception.
The festival's most noteworthy achievement was arguably in bringing together a very diverse audience that largely had never previously visited The Ukrainian Museum. Many expressed their awe at the accomplishments of the Ukrainian community, in particular the construction of the Museum's still-new facility and its impressive exhibitions.
The festival's success can be attributed to the Kinofest NYC team and the many volunteers who contributed much of their time and energy before and during the weekend. Special thanks go to Kinofest NYC festival director Andrew Kotliar, who conceived of the idea and brought the program to the Museum, and to Damian Kolodiy, the festival's program director, who worked tirelessly to put together a truly impressive line-up of guest speakers and films. It is also important to highlight the creative efforts of print designer Natasha Mikhalchuk, operations director Martha Duff, Bohdana Smyrnova for publicity and outreach, film coordinator (Kyiv) Dmytro Zakharevych, film coordinator (New York City) Olenka Denysenko, and programming advisor Alexander J. Motyl.
Other Kinofest NYC volunteers included Joe Crescente, Alex Cybriwski, Mateusz Drozolzewski, Fitzgerald East Jr., Nadia Garbosky, Natalia Gladun, Olesia Ivanyshyn, Iryna Koshulap, Serhiy Kotsko, Viktoriya (Vika) Slobodian, Jonathan Spiteri, Greg Szumel, Natalie Szumel, Jose Tabora, Nadia Tatchin, Olena Vivchar, and Yurii Zobkiv.
Together, the entire team, which included Hanya Krill, who is in charge of the Museum's film program and acted as the Kinofest public relations director and venue coordinator, created an event that speaks with a new voice for Ukrainian and post-Soviet film. The Museum is grateful to the Kinofest NYC team for its important contributions to the film program.
The Ukrainian Museum's film program is supported in part by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Additional support for Kinofest NYC 2010 was provided by a generous grant from the Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union. Reception support was provided in part by Veselka Restaurant.
Media organizations such as Novoe Russkoe Slovo, The Ukrainian Weekly, and Novy Dziennyk helped spread the news about the upcoming festival. Institutions in Ukraine that helped market Kinofest NYC included the Lviv International Festival of Visual Art, Vseukrainskyi Festival-Konkurs Molodoho i Al'ternatyvnoho Kino ta Video "Inshi Terytorii," DyvoFilm International Short Film and Animation Festival, and Berdianskyi Mizhnarodnyi Kinofestival.
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