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Capturing the Marvelous: Ukrainian Poetic Cinema

Capturing the Marvelous: Ukrainian Poetic Cinema
 Presented by Seagull Films and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Curated by Richard Pena, Alla Verlotsky and Sergey Trimbach. With the support of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and the Filmmakers Union of the Ukraine. Generous support is provided by  Alexandr Rodnaynskiy, special thanks to Sergey Trimbach.    

 

 

“If it’s necessary to choose between truth and beauty, I’ll choose beauty. In it there’s a larger, deeper existence than naked truth. Existence is only that which is beautiful.”
Alexander Dovzhenko

Ukrainian Poetic Cinema is a unique anthology that stretches from the 1920's till 80s and showcases the body of work that is folkloric, poetic, sometime mystical, sometime metaphoric, symbolic and even religious.  It’s deeply rooted national identity and self determination are manifested and elevated in each and every film featured in the showcase. Remarkable artistic integrity and imaginary aspect of the presented film were not always understood and appreciated by the Soviet official power. The project would have great significance within North America particularly, as some of the films were censored , shelved, never screened in the West, lives of many filmmakers working in the genre were destroyed.

 The stunning series includes critical work of Oleksandr Dovzhenko’s to the canonical films of Leonid Osika, Yuriy Ilyenko, Sergei Paradzhanov and many others, those that determined Ukrainian cinema’s spiritual and aesthetic meanings. However,  “poetic cinema” in Ukraine was never a fixed aesthetic system (in the fashion of Italian Neo-Realism, for example); rather, it functioned as a cultural trope to differentiate Ukrainian cinema, both from central productions in Moscow, and from the folkloric mode of representing Ukrainians that dominated film production in the Soviet Union from the mid-1930s to the early-1960s. For filmmakers involved in making “poetic cinema,” the term signaled a means of constructing Ukrainian difference, while rejecting socialist realism and participating in a pan-European modernist tradition.

 The experience of cinema in Ukraine during the Soviet period remains both well known and hidden from even the most dedicated American filmgoers. The influential masterworks of Dovzhenko and Vertov are part of every university film curriculum. Yet there is little knowledge neither of the great bulk of Ukrainian filmmaking, nor the relationship between that filmmaking and those works known internationally.

Quite ironically, due to severe state censorship, many Ukrainian Poetic Cinema masterpieces were also banned in their own land while few ended up on the Western screen in re-edited versions that vastly differed from their authors' original intentions.

In unison with Seagull Films’ mission to preserve the artistic integrity of formerly Soviet film work and to present them the way they were envisioned by the creators, carefully curated Ukrainian Poetic Cinema will feature restored, brand-new 35mm prints of the original versions (with English subtitles).