Yuri Ilyenko – Bilyy ptakh z chornoyu vidznakoyu AKA The White Bird Marked with Black (1971)

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Colourful ‘optimistic tragedy’ of a poor family in Ukraine, living in the Carpathian mountains near the Romanian border, during the Second World War. Five sons of the family make up the village band, but as the battles between the Nazi-supported Ukranian nationalists and the Soviets go on, their band loses one player after another.

Winner of the Grand prize at the 1971 Moscow Film Festival, White Bird with a Black Mark is set in western Ukraine, in an area that has passed through the control of several nations over the centuries. despairing at the poverty of is family, a boy decides the stork is the cause of all their problems, and sets out to kill it. But soon everyone’s situation will be challenged, as World War II breaks out and the region is carved into warring battle zones, with brother being forced to fight against brother. Yuri Illienko once again brings his dazzling poetic vision to this tale of loyalty to family, to nation, to state—and to oneself. The film is widely considered one of the most important works of the Ukrainian film heritage. Continue reading

Yuri Ilyenko – Vecher nakanune Ivana Kupala AKA The Eve of Ivan Kupala (1968)

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Banned by the Soviet authorities, Vecher nakanune Ivana Kupala (The Eve of Ivan Kupalo) is widely held to be one of the masterpieces of Ukrainian Poetic Cinema. Adapted from a short story of Gogol, which had its roots in Ukrainian folklore, the film depicts an almost Faustian pact, in which Piotr makes an unholy deal with Bassaruv in order that he may win the hand of Pidorka from her father. The director Yuri Ilyenko brings the same rich, vivid imagery that he lent to Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors where he worked as the cinematographer. The film often makes difficult first viewing for unaccustomed viewers due to its hallucinatory nature, but its lucid tapestry renders it a mandatory experience. Continue reading