Quarantine Cinema: Discover Ukraine Through Film
26 April, 2020

Stuck at home and looking for something to watch? Why not use the time to brush up on your Ukrainian history? We’ve compiled the definitive list of 50 films to guide you through 1,000 years of Ukrainian history.  

Introduction: Why this project

It’s an interesting time to be involved in cinema. With the world at home and looking for something to do while under quarantine, cinema has indeed become an “essential service”. 

And there’s surely no better time to tune into Ukrainian cinema.

Ukraine is currently experiencing a golden age in cinema unlike any in its history – pre- or post-independence.  

Moviegoing has shot up more than five-fold since the Revolution of Dignity, in part because the government now provides over 1 billion hryvnias (around $36.8 million) in subsidies to film and television production. 

READ MORE: Are Foreign Filmmakers Key to Boost Ukrainian Cinema?

Ukrainian films are regularly winning prestigious film circuit accolades, Ukrainian content is picking up top awards at premier ceremonies like Cannes, the Emmys, and even the Oscars, and international celebrities are looking at Ukraine to shoot their newest videos, including Tom Cruise and Miley Cyrus.

READ MORE: Ukrainian-Born Oscar Winner on Filmmaking and Life in Ukraine

More than that, the Odesa International Film Festival has become one the most important in Central Europe, while the Golden Dzygas – the Ukrainian Oscars – are heading into their fourth year this month. 

In fact, there might be no film industry in Europe more in vogue than Ukraine’s right now. 

READ MORE: Foreign Directors Choose Kyiv As Their Shooting Location

 The History of Ukraine in 5 Minutes

Just as Ukraine’s film industry is experiencing a golden age, so is its music video industry. Take, for example, legendary Kharkiv hip-hop group TNMK. 

Last autumn, they released a track called “History of Ukraine in 5 Minutes”, accompanied by an animated video. The song, while in Ukrainian, comes with English subtitles.

While the video goes through Ukrainian history in, like the song says – 5 minutes, our 10-piece Discover Ukraine Through Film series will be a tad more in depth.

Still, let’s let TNMK guide us through our film series.

The History of Ukraine through film in 10 parts

The video opens with Hutsuls playing the trembita, like you might see in the story of Oleksa Dovbush, who we feature in our Ukraine Under Foreign Empires article. We’ll also look at important events like the Battle of Kruty and the deportation of Crimean Tatars.

The clip then looks at Ukraine’s earliest peoples, before segueing into the days of Kyivan Rus and Cossack times. In our article on Ancient Ukraine, we discover figures like Yaroslav the Wise, Bohdan Khmelnytsky, and Taras Shevchenko – as a samurai! 

References to famous poets and artists like Mariya Prymachenko and Hryhorii Skovoroda fly by, before the video moves to the advent of communism. In our article on Soviet Ukraine, we feature prominent Ukrainian directors like Oleksandr Dovzhenko and Serhiy Paradzhanov while looking at events like the Holodomor, Chornobyl, and Ukrainian dissidents.

After TNMK highlights the horrors of Hitler and Stalin, the clip moves to the wonderful time of Ukrainian independence and the troubled revolutions that followed. In our article on Independence to Revolution, we look at Ukraine’s revolutions, the conflicts in Donbas and Crimea, and the issue of language rights in post-independent Ukraine.

READ MORE: Modern Ukrainian Ethno Music to Listen to During Quarantine

The music video then has Russian President Vladimir Putin pushing tanks into Eastern Ukraine, affecting the lives of all Ukrainians today. In our articles on Ukraine at War and Modern Ukraine, we look at people and issues in modern Ukraine, including how people live their lives, how they deal with the War in Donbas, and what they think of their politicians. 

In separate articles on the Ukrainian Diaspora and Kids in Ukraine, we look at the issues important to the influential Ukrainian diaspora and on some Ukrainian films guaranteed to entertain your children.

We end our series with a look at the best of last year – the five films up for Best Picture at this year’s Golden Dzyga Awards

As the song ends, the lyrics come up: “Look left. Look to the right. This is your land, this is your state, history is in it – the line is bright.”

So, join us over the next few weeks as we Discover Ukraine Through Film.

/By Lee Reaney