Hoover’s second feature tells the story of a man called Crodocile Gennadiy, who works to help homeless, drug-addicted young people on the streets of Mariupol, Ukraine. Bravely, Gennadiy also challenges the city’s dealers and abusers, and although he meets with resistance, Gennadiy is steadfast in continuing his work. Although the crew dealt with turbulence while filming in Ukraine, they managed to craft a powerful film about moral ambiguity and civic responsibilities.
What’s your film about in 140 characters or less?
Gennadiy, a pastor from Mariupol Ukraine, who’s known for abducting homeless kids from the streets of his city.
Now what’s it REALLY about?
Moral ambiguity, vigilantism, drugs, alcohol, systemic indifference and civic responsibilities. Residual Soviet mentalities, revolution, Mariupol, Ukraine, The EU and Russia. Mostly, Gennadiy and his narrative.
Tell us briefly about yourself.
I live in Pittsburgh and work for a production company called Animal. I made my first feature film in 2013 called Blood Brother, which won the Audience and Grand Jury Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Also that year, I co-directed an award-winning documentary short entitled Seven Days. This is my second feature documentary film.
Biggest challenge in completing this film?
In 2014, our crew was attacked by a Pro-Russian mob while we were filming in Ukraine. We stopped by a peaceful rally to get footage, joining the press that was covering the event. We were singled out for speaking English and quickly became the center of attention. Knowing it was time to leave, we casually tried to make our way to the van. After a swarm of insults, some provocateurs escalated their aggression by grabbing one of our crew. Our translator yelled for us to run, which ignited the crowd, causing them pursue us. We made it into the van after a long dash, but found ourselves surrounded by the crowd that had somehow procured weapons, which were being used to destroy the van. After an unrecallable amount of time, our driver managed to break through the mob, but not without being followed by a car full of assailants. Our driver was slick and managed to evade the car(s), all the while driving on rims and muscling through the aftereffects of tear gas. We eventually made our way out of the country. The conflict in Ukraine continued to intensify, making it too dangerous for our crew to feel good about returning for additional filming.
A less harrowing challenge, is that I don’t speak Russian, so I felt like I had one hand tied behind my back with this project.
What do you want the Tribeca audience to take away from your film?
Apart from certain moral axioms, right and wrong are not always clear. Polarizing narratives are often constructed in the space of moral ambiguity to make the world seem definitive. But life is deeply complex. Reality bends and breaks our sacred stories. I hope people can explore the complicated nature of their own moral identities and somehow understand others better through that process.
Any films inspire you?
I didn’t watch many films while working on this one. I mostly drew inspiration from short stories and novellas. To me, a film is similar to a short story. The aggregate of personalities, conversations and scenes, entire worlds, are acutely condensed for a scalable, satisfying consumption. The characters flash in and out of our lives, imprinting blast shadows on the consciousness. You can tell a lot, but not everything. “My First Fee” by Isaac Babel was particularly inspirational for me on this project.
I’m currently researching a few ideas that could develop into projects. Our team at Animal is always working on something.
What cameras did you shoot on?
Two Cannon C300’s, Red Epic, Cannon 5D and we had a variety of formats from Gennadiy’s personal archival footage.
Did you crowdfund?
If so, via what platform. If not, why?
We’ve always been drawn to crowdfunding. The platform is great for engaging audiences from the ground up. The Kickstarter for Crocodile Gennadiy was our third successful crowdfunding campaign. We had 641 backers and raised almost $50,000, exceeding our goal by $10,000. I also enjoy supporting other projects through crowdfunding. I’ve supported everything from “STRAFE®”, the fastest, bloodiest, deadliest, most adjective-abusing, action-packed first-person shooter in the world, to independent films and products.
Did you go to film school? If so, which one?
Growing up, I wanted to be a fine artist, but in the eleventh hour, I chose to pursue Animation at a commercial art school in Pittsburgh. Before long, I changed my major to Industrial Design, learning practical movie FX and Makeup. After a year of study, I was dissatisfied and considered dropping out, but switched my major to Digital Media Production on a whim.
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2015 festival. For profiles go HERE.