Director Julia Ivanova’s award-winnning feature documentary, Family Portrait in Black and White, was an official selection of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and winner of this year’s Best Canadian Feature Film at the Hot Docs Film Festival.
After a limited theatrical run over the summer, the film has now been released to home video (DVD), here in the USA, today, December 4.
Recapping… here’s its synopsis:
In a Ukrainian village, big-hearted, formidable Olga Nenya single-handedly raises 23 foster children. Sixteen are the biracial offspring of visiting African students and Ukrainian women, who, living in a country of blue-eyed blondes that’s racked with endemic racism, often see no choice but to abandon their babies. Family Portrait in Black and White charts the rhythms of Olga’s hectic household, rife with rambunctious kids and goats. As diverse dramas unfold among the brood—a high-schooler struggling to transcend his plight through education, a boy longing to reunite with his Ugandan father, and a child courted for Italian adoption—Olga reveals herself to be loving and protective, but also narrow-minded and controlling. A product of communist ideology, she favors collective duty over individual freedom. It’s this philosophy that gives the orphans the rich sense of belonging they ache for, as well as cause for rebellion and distrust, in this lyrical, sometimes gut-wrenching tale about the meaning of “Mama,” “family,” and “nation.”
The film was also broadcast on PBS, following its festival, and commercial theatrical run.
From a press statement, the filmmakers are hoping that Family Portrait in Black and White will encourage North American families to participate in summer hosting programs bringing disadvantaged Eastern European children to the USA and Canada for summer or Christmas vacations. These orphan hosting programs already exist in many communities in North America but more host families are needed.
And further… Human rights activism for equality of all races is still in infancy in post-Soviet republics, including Ukraine. The problems of racism were highlighted during the Euro Cup soccer championship this summer and have not disappeared. Many organizations are still fighting to force the government of the Ukraine to protect its bi-racial citizens and to prosecute racially motivated crimes with maximum sentences. Family Portrait in Black encourages more human rights organizations to take on this cause.
The documentary was produced by Interfilm Productions in association with ITVS International, Eghd, Knowledge, DR, Rogers and Hot Docs/Shaw Documentary Funds and is available for home and educational use through Passion River Films as well as your favorite retailers and at http://www.familyportraitthefilm.com/.
Look for it on DVD today.
Here’s a trailer as a refresher: