The Living Fire

“Lives begin and end, but everything goes back to the earth.” A tour-de-force of cinematography and sound design, this captivating, award-winning documentary looks at three generations of sheepherders in the Carpathian Mountains. While father and son take their flock on their annual journey through the highlands, the 82-year-old widower Vasyl reflects on his past back home. A sublime look at the cycles of life and the waning of tradition.

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Winter on Fire supplies a visceral, in-depth look at the bloody Ukrainian uprising in Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), which took place over several months in late 2013 and early 2014 and triggered a cataclysm that continues to unfold today. Focusing on the three months of street battles that led to the removal of President Viktor Yanukovych, the film reminds us how documentaries, in the tradition of works such as The Battle of Chile and The Square, can have an effect different from that of daily reportage by taking more time on the craft of storytelling. [Synopsis courtesy of TIFF]

Viy

Early 18th century. Cartographer Jonathan Green undertakes a scientific voyage from Europe to the East. Having passed through Transylvania and crossed the Carpathian Mountains, he finds himself in a small village lost in impassible woods. Nothing but chance and heavy fog could bring him to this cursed place. People who live here do not resemble any other people which the traveler saw before that. The villagers, having dug a deep moat to fend themselves from the rest of the world, share a naive belief that they could save themselves from evil, failing to understand that evil has made its nest in their souls and is waiting for an opportunity to gush out upon the world.

Gaamer

The boy’s name is Alex, but in the world of gamers where he spends most of his time, he is known as Koss. The enormous amount of time he spends at the computer screen starts to pay off: in the games’ clubs in his small Ukrainian village, he is the undisputed king of the shooting game Quake, admired by the ‘noobs’ – the younger and less experienced players he defeats digitally. But there is also a different side. The endless games are getting in the way of his study at technical college, to the great dismay of his single mother. She sees her son growing up into a good-for-nothing, just like his absent father. In a realistic style, filmed at a real game tournament with real gamers in the leading roles, debuting director Oleg Sentsov shows the rise of ‘Koss’. Because Alex has plans: he’s going to be the greatest and that will solve everything. Step-by-step, he approaches his goal: to be world champion. But will success bring him what he wants? And what if he doesn’t win?

My Mother, a War and Me

1942, and a spectacular wartime birth in the depths of winter: a young russian nurse unexpectedly goes into labour and, all alone and in freezing temperatures, gives birth to her daughter Tamara in a field on the banks of the Volga. The most personal film to date from co-directors Tamara Trampe and Johann Feindt is dedicated to Tamara’s own family history. The search for her unknown father who, as a russian officer, made the young nurse pregnant, is complicated by the fact that her mother has never come to terms with her wartime trauma and worn family photos only seem to show happy-go-lucky life before the war. But the director won’t give up so easily and, through a mixture of personal childhood recollections and conversations with relatives and former nurses who were on the front in Ukraine, she puts together the pieces of the puzzle. In her mother’s twilight years, a family history is warm-heartedly and movingly reappraised and a chronicle of the 20th century emerges. World War II left behind mental scars in the Ukraine under which more than one generation are suffering even almost 70 years after the conflict ended. [Synopsis courtesy of Berlinale]

Eternal Homecoming

A woman is paid a surprise visit by her long-forgotten classmate, who needs her advice: should he choose a wife or a lover? An outrageously burlesque mise-en-scène is repeated many times but each time in a different place and performed by new actors. Why?

Ukraine is Not a Brothel

Ukraine’s topless feminist sensation FEMEN have stirred up a press frenzy across Europe. Outraged by the world’s image of Ukrainian women as either brides for sale or commodities of sex tourism, Femen bare their breasts in protest. “Ukraine Is Not A Brothel” offers an intimate glimpse inside the world’s most provocative feminist organisation. A movement that began in the snow-filled streets of a corrupt, post-Soviet Ukraine, Femen’s naked war against patriarchy is gaining momentum internationally. However before they can take the world by storm, these bold and beautiful women must first confront the contradictory forces powering their own ‘titillating’ feminist organization. [Synopsis courtesy of SXSW]