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  • Hannia
    started a topic Movie - Must See

    Movie - Must See

    A Love Story Set Amid The Holodomor, Ukraine's 20th-Century Famine, Hits The Big Screen
    RADIO FREE EUROPE Mike Eckel Feb 4, 2017
    Max Irons in a scene from Bitter Harvest, opening in U.S. and British theaters later this month.

    Like many cinematic love stories, Bitter Harvest features passionate kisses, vows of fidelity, and heart-wrenching scenes of separation as turmoil engulfs a pastoral homeland.

    Think Doctor Zhivago, except instead of the Russian Revolution, this film is set during the Holodomor -- the famine that killed millions in Ukraine in the 1930s and that shadows the country's relationship with Moscow to this day.

    The film is being released -- in U.S. and British theaters this month -- amid another tumultuous chapter in the relationship: nearly four years of conflict between government forces and Russia-backed separatists that has left more than 9,750 dead in the east, and the Crimean Peninsula in Russia's hands.

    Canadian-Ukrainian director George Mendeluk insists that his film is first and foremost a love story.

    "It in some ways pays homage to Doctor Zhivago: The love story is up front, the Holodomor in the background," said Mendeluk, 68, whose film credits include the 1980 political thriller The Kidnapping Of A President.

    But the film, featuring British actors Max Irons, Samantha Barks, and Terence Stamp, takes on a subject that many Ukrainians consider a genocide, a catastrophe engineered by Soviet leader Josef Stalin to consolidate communist power and wipe out any inkling of Ukrainian independence.

    "The movie takes on a different dimension now, because even though in the film we talk about Stalin, and we show Stalin and how he orchestrated this artificial famine, what really is evident now is that, with the invasion of the Crimea and eastern Ukraine, it's the same old story, but repeating itself," Mendeluk said.

    Untold On Film
    Hearty peasant men scything golden sheaves of wheat. Ruddy-faced women lugging bags of grain on their backs to windmills standing under cloudless skies. A man and woman kissing passionately in a forest, giving way to scowling Red Army soldiers on horseback.

    These are some of opening scenes of the film, which tells a fictional story of an artistically inclined peasant boy named Yuri (played by Irons) who is separated from his childhood sweetheart Natalka (played by Barks).

    WATCH: The official trailer for Bitter Harvest

    He struggles to return to her as the Red Army enforces Stalin's order aimed at collectivizing Ukraine's agricultural output, a policy that resulted in famine and millions of deaths -- through hunger, summary executions, or exile to Siberian labor camps.

    The film ends in 1933, when the death toll reached its climax.

    Richard Bachynsky-Hoover, the film's co-author, said he first came up with the story concept in 1999 when he traveled for Ukraine for the first time.

    Raised in Ontario, Canada, by second-generation Ukrainian immigrants, Bachynsky-Hoover, 59, aspired to be an illustrator but ended up working odd jobs in construction. Later, he became a small-time actor, appearing in Canadian TV shows and movies, including a 1999 film directed by Mendeluk.

    The year earlier he had married the daughter of a Ukrainian immigrant, leading him to travel to Ukraine in 1999 and begin to learn about his ethnic heritage. In 2004, he spent weeks on Kyiv's streets during the Orange Revolution.

    Bachynsky-Hoover said he started drafting what would become Bitter Harvest, scribbling ideas down on napkins and studying the history of the period the story is set in, and the fate of his relatives.

    "During the Orange Revolution, I found out, you know, that this country has suffered too much and that no one has ever done a film about the Holodomor," Bachynsky-Hoover said.

    In 2008, three years after moving to Kyiv full-time, he had enough pieces to begin shopping his film idea to Ukrainian government officials, seeking financing.

    The government of then-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych had no interest, he said, nor did any of the wealthy Ukrainian businessmen he approached.

    In 2011, Bachynsky-Hoover said he approached Ian Ihnatowycz, a Toronto-based investor whose parents fled Lviv during World War II and emigrated to Canada in 1948. He committed to financing production of the $21 million film in its entirety.

    "This was an opportunity, and there was a strong reason to make the West aware of the atrocities that Stalin had committed, and I thought it was particularly important to give the typical Western movie viewer some context about modern-day Ukraine and the situation that Ukraine faces," Ihnatowycz said.

    The following year, Mendeluk said, he was contacted by Bachynsky-Hoover. With Ihnatowycz's financial backing, Mendeluk agreed to do the film.

    The screenplay went through 12 different scripts before the writers settled on a final version, and filming began in the summer of 2013, Mendeluk said. Many of the key scenes of Ukrainian countryside and bucolic villages were filmed on the grounds of an outdoor ethnographic museum in Pyrohiv, a village located 45 minutes from Kyiv.

    Oleksandr Pecherytsia, a Ukrainian actor who plays a peasant and best friend of the main hero, said he felt a special obligation in appearing the film. The stories it tells, he said, are the same stories that a dwindling number of older Ukrainians remember firsthand. >>>>>>>>>>>>

  • Gotno Gizmo
    The Distant Barking of Dogs

    A film about Donbass The Distant Barking of Dogs ("remote barking dogs") won in the nomination "best documentary" at festivals in Sweden.

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  • Hannia
    Past, Present Collide on Set of ‘Bitter Harvest’
    VOICE OF AMERICA Tatiana Vorozhko & Iryna Matviichuk
    Febuary 25, 2017 1:14 AM
    Actors Max Irons (left) Samantha Barks and Tamer Hassan participate in the BUILD Speaker Series to discuss the film "Bitter Harvest" at AOL Studios, Feb. 16, 2017, in New York.

    NEW YORK —

    “I wanted something that looked like a fairy tale,” says German-born Canadian filmmaker George Mendeluk, describing what compelled him to tackle one of the darkest chapters in Ukrainian-Russian relations.

    Opening with a picturesque scene of a Ukrainian village in the 1930s, the historical juxtaposition is stark: Bitter Harvest, a historical drama that weaves a love story around cataclysmic events surrounding the Holodomor — the devastating state-sponsored famine in Ukraine that killed millions — can’t help but draw comparisons with today’s news coverage of nearby regions.

    Released worldwide Friday, Mendeluk’s first full-length film sheds light on a tragedy that, concealed by Soviet authorities for decades, remains little-known outside of Ukraine today.

    Past, Present Collide on Set of ‘Bitter Harvest’

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  • Hannia
    ‘Bitter Harvest’ Portrays the Secret Holocaust in Ukraine
    'Bitter Harvest' chronicles history and gives us a better understanding of current events.
    NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTRY Patti Armstrong Feb. 23, 2017

    You would think that the world would notice if a dictatorship killed millions of its own people. But it didn’t. It was the Holodomer—which literally means death by hunger­­––in the Ukraine, ruled by the Soviet Union in 1932-33. The actual number of dead has never been fully counted and estimates vary widely from 2.5 to 14 million.

    Russia hid details about the forced famine until archives were opened following Ukraine’s independence in 1991. My own knowledge was scant until I previewed the movie Bitter Harvest and read more about it. Russia, would rather you not know about the Holodomor but as is often said, being ignorant of history makes it likely to repeat itself. Given that Russia again wants the Ukraine under its control, once one knows the history, Ukraine’s strong resistance makes perfect sense.

    Bitter Harvest portrays the Holodomor through a fictional love story between Yuri, a peasant boy with artistic ambitions, and his childhood sweetheart Natalka. There is passion, a heart-wrenching separation, and undying love amid depraved rulers sacrificing innocent lives in Ukraine’s pastoral country.

    The History
    Stalin had commanded a 44 percent increase in grain in the Ukraine despite that the nation’s productivity had been hampered when communists eliminated many of the private farms. Stalin threatened that failure to meet the quota would mean all grain was to be confiscated. He kept his word.

    Food was declared state property and even taken from households. Soldiers searched homes and confiscated food any found in hiding places. In August of 1932, the Communist Party had passed a law mandating the death penalty if anyone be caught stealing food from government-owned farm fields. Many peasants, desperate to feed their families, were shot from watchtowers built to watch over the collective farms.

    The most intense thrust was against Ukraine's Churches, for they represented a form of Ukrainian solidarity opposed to Marxism. Churches were demolished or turned into state buildings and priests were executed or sent to labor camps. By the end of 1933, 80 percent of the Ukraine's village churches were closed.

    The article, “Holodomor: The Secret Holocaust in Ukraine,” in The New American, explained that the worst paradox was that besides much of the confiscated grain being “exported to the West, large portions were simply dumped into the sea by the Soviets, or allowed to rot. An Italian diplomat during that time reported: “The famine has been deliberately planned by the Moscow government and implemented by means of brutal requisition. The definite aim of this crime is to liquidate the Ukrainian problem over a few months, sacrificing from 10 to 15 million people.”

    The West Should Have Known
    What is especially disturbing was that it was a rare Western observer who reported on the Ukrainian’s plight. Instead, journalists who enjoyed high esteem claimed there was nothing to worry about. The New American reported that playwright and socialist George Bernard Shaw, after receiving a tour orchestrated by the Soviets, proclaimed in 1932 that he had not seen a single undernourished citizen.

    By far the worst offender, according to the New American article, was Walter Duranty, New York Times' Moscow bureau chief from 1922 to 1936. “Duranty enjoyed personal access to Stalin, called him ‘the greatest living statesman,’ and even praised the dictator's notorious show trials… Journalist Joseph Alsop termed Duranty a ‘KGB agent,’ and Malcolm Muggeridge called him ‘the greatest liar of any journalist I have met in 50 years of journalism.’

    “In November 1932, he brazenly told his New York Times readers, ‘There is no famine or actual starvation nor is there likely to be.’ He denounced as ‘liars’ the few brave writers who reported the famine, which he called ‘malignant propaganda.’”

    When reports of massive deaths made Duranty’s claim questionable, he wrote it was just a problem with malnutrition. Shockingly, Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 for "dispassionate, interpretive reporting of the news from Russia."

    Resistance Fierce
    In 2013, during the making of the movie Ukraine’s corrupt former President with strong ties to Russia, opted to join Russia instead of the European Union. Street protests broke out throughout the Ukraine and led to his overthrow.

    Putin sent in forces in the spring of 2014 to occupy Crimea and the Donbas. His goal was to annex the Ukraine. But the citizens know their history well thanks to stories passed down from their grandparents. Never again! Ukraine leaders insist as they fight for their freedom against Russian aggression.

    This time, the turmoil is playing out on a national stage. It has been estimated that over 10,000 people have died thus far since the 2004 Orange Revolution, set off an ongoing conflict between the government in Ukraine and the pro-Russian separatists.

    Bitter Harvest is a movie that chronicles history for a better understanding of current events. It will be released in theaters February 24. It’s not a family-friendly film. There is a scene suggesting that Yuri and Natalka were intimate before marriage and it is rated R for violence and disturbing images. ‘Bitter Harvest’ Portrays the Secret Holocaust in Ukraine |

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  • Hannia
    Win tickets to Bitter Harvest screening

    18 hours ago | | See recent HeyUGuys news »

    Author: Competitions

    To mark the release of Bitter Harvest, we’ve been given 5 pairs of tickets for the screening on 20th February at a central London location.

    Based on one of the most overlooked tragedies of the 20th Century, Bitter Harvest is a powerful story of love, honour, rebellion and survival as seen through the eyes of two young lovers caught in the ravages of Joseph Stalin’s genocidal policies against Ukraine in the 1930s. As Stalin advances the ambitions of the burgeoning Soviet Union, a young artist named Yuri (Max Irons) battles to survive famine, imprisonment and torture to save his childhood sweetheart Natalka (Samantha Barks) from the “Holodomor,” the death-by-starvation program which ultimately killed millions of Ukrainians. Against this tragic backdrop, Yuri escapes from a Soviet prison and joins the anti-Bolshevik resistance movement as he battles to reunite with Natalka and continue the fight for a free Ukraine. »

    - Competitions
    Win tickets to Bitter Harvest screening - HeyUGuys

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  • Hannia
    Movie - Must See Pt 2

    "I know about the Holodomor not from books but from the stories of my grandparents, who were forced to roam from one region to another," he said. "Ukraine had the most fertile land, everybody bought its corn, and suddenly there was famine in Ukraine."

    A Tragedy Exposed
    The subject of the famine of 1932-33, which struck many grain-producing areas of the Soviet Union, is fraught with controversy when it comes to Ukraine. The widespread belief there -- held furtively during the Soviet era and aired openly after independence in 1991 -- is that famine was man-made, engineered by the Politburo under Stalin's leadership to bring independence-minded Ukrainians to heel.

    The result was that Ukrainians would suffer greater losses during the famine than any other Soviet republic. From 2.4 to 7.5 million Ukrainians died, depending on the source; some estimates push the toll even higher.

    The famine was downplayed by Soviet authorities, but in the Soviet Union's dying days, historians began to talk more openly about the toll and its causes. To this day, however, officials in Russia have resisted labeling it a man-made catastrophe.

    The policy was "that this was sort of a vague bland Soviet tragedy. You emphasize the Russian, Kazakhs also died rather than admitting something specific had happened in Ukraine," said Timothy Snyder, a Yale University historian and author of the 2010 book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler And Stalin.

    In recent years, the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin has sought to publicly reexamine Soviet history -- and Stalin in particular -- at times glossing over some of its more horrific chapters.

    Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, for example, has condemned any critical examination of the Soviet period. In 2015, he panned a British film about a disgraced Soviet agent that had been dubbed into Russian and was to be released in Russia. In a statement posted to the ministry's website at the time, he sarcastically referenced the Ukrainian famine.

    "Everything in the film is in its place: Stalin arranges the Holodomor especially for Ukraine and kills 25,000 people every day; starving children eat their weaker classmates; it is forbidden to investigate crimes in the Soviet Union because 'we don't have murders, they happen only under capitalism,'" Medinsky wrote.

    In October of 2016, the Kremlin-backed news site Sputnik published a blunt opinion piece that asserted that the Holodomor was a hoax "invented by the West in close cooperation with Nazi Germany and pro-Nazi Ukrainian nationalists."

    In Ukraine, the government under Yanukovych deemed the famine to be genocide in 2006, a conclusion now shared by two dozen other countries. November 26 is officially observed as the Day In Memory Of The Victims Of The Holodomor.

    Despite the classification, there was no unanimity among members of the government. Yanukovych himself frequently downplayed any suggestion that the famine was engineered. His last education minister insisted the death toll was exaggerated, angering nationalists.

    That attitude has changed not only because of the recent events in Ukraine. There's also greater recognition of the Holodomor and other tragedies, in part due to the broad reach of film and other artistic avenues.

    "We are starting to create the story," Yevhen Nyshchuk, Ukraine's culture minister, told RFE/RL. "The world community should know that Ukrainians lived through such a tragedy."

    Maidan Shoot
    The film's final shooting in Ukraine came as the country convulsed in turmoil. In November 2013, Yanukovych, then president, spurned a trade agreement with the European Union for closer ties with Russia. That decision sparked four months of often-violent protests in Kyiv's center that culminated with Yanukovych's ouster in February 2014.

    Mendeluk, who helped write the final version of the screenplay in addition to directing, said his crew, which also shot in England, did its final filming in February as protests raged in downtown Kyiv.

    He said he had to repeatedly remind his local crew not to focus on the shoot, not the demonstrations. Several regularly showed up to work smelling of burnt rubber, he said, from the tires set ablaze by protesters.

    All the main figures behind the film insist that the timing of its release is coincidental. As Bachynsky-Hoover said, the story was conceived of more than a decade ago.

    Still, Russia's relationship with Ukraine -- in 1933 or in 2017 -- lurks in the background.

    "Whatever the contemporary politics are, more than 3 million people starved to death in Soviet Ukraine, in horrifying circumstances. That is just the case," said Snyder, who has not seen the film yet. "One can evaluate that in different ways. You can understand it in different ways."

    But if the first impulse is to dismiss such stories as information warfare, "there's just something inhuman in that," he added. "I would say this: That it wouldn't be a bad thing if Russians, Ukrainians, and others knew a bit more about what happened in the 1930s." A Love Story Set Amid The Holodomor, Ukraine's 20th-Century Famine, Hits The Big Screen
    RFE/RL Ukrainian Service correspondent Aliona Kachkan contributed to this report from Kyiv.

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