February 1–22, 2024

Witnessing Change: Ukrainian Cinema in a Time of Turmoil

Boasting a formidable cinematic heritage that stretches back to the early days of film, the country has recently seen a renewed flowering of auteur cinema.”

Jonathan Romney, Sight and Sound

Ukrainian cinema had a very difficult start. For decades, it laboured under the strict guidelines of the Soviet cultural apparatus, which instrumentalized cinema as a vehicle of propaganda. During the 1960s, a period known as the Thaw (Перебудова), restrictions on artistic expression were loosened. Ukrainian filmmakers used their newfound freedom to develop a poetic cinema” in which they explored more personal questions of Ukrainian identity. This period produced some of the nation’s most famous and, arguably, greatest films. After Ukraine regained independence in 1991, Ukrainian cinema struggled with endemic underfunding until its revival in the early 2000s when the government began allocating more money for art and culture. Today, under the duress of an uninvited war, Ukrainian cinema is again under material threat.

Witnessing Change” provides an overview of the evolution of Ukrainian cinema from its earliest incarnations to recent works of note. The innovative techniques and perspectives found in the work of pioneering directors such as Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Dziga Vertov, Kira Muratova, Larisa Shepitko, and Sergei Loznitsa helped define Ukrainian cinema, just as they impacted cinema globally. Emerging talents, such as Antonio Lukich, Roman Blazhan, Nariman Aliev, and Roman Bondarchuk, continue these pathbreaking traditions.

Spanning nearly a century of cinema, the films in this series touch on issues that continue to shape Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora: technology, demographic generations, political revolution, and war. Through these works, viewers can glimpse the complex history of the Ukrainian peoples’ ongoing struggle for self-determination. Witnessing Change” aims to shine a cinematic light on a region that continues to strive for recognition, autonomy, and the preservation of its cultural heritage.

Alina Senchenko
Series curator

Opening Night February 1 (Thursday)
7:00 pm – Reception
8:00 pm – Earth with curator introduction
More Info

Co-presented with Maple Hope Foundation, a Canadian not-for-profit organization committed to helping people suffering from the war in Ukraine. 50% of ticket proceeds will benefit the Maple Hope Foundation
Maple Hope Foundation Logo
Supported by the Shevchenko Foundation
Shevchenko foundation

List of Programmed Films

Date Film Title Director(s) Year Country
2024-Feb Earth Oleksandr Dovzhenko 1930 USSR
2024-Feb Brief Encounters Kira Muratova 1967 USSR
2024-Feb The Long Farewell Kira Muratova 1971 USSR
2024-Feb Maidan Sergei Loznitsa 2014 Ukraine . . .
2024-Feb Enthusiasm: The Symphony of Donbas Dziga Vertov 1930 USSR
2024-Feb My Thoughts Are Silent Antonio Lukich 2019 Ukraine
2024-Feb The Ascent Larisa Shepitko 1977 USSR
2024-Feb Homeward Nariman Aliev 2019 Ukraine
2024-Feb Volcano Roman Bondarchuk 2018 Ukraine . . .

Film notes written by Alina Senchenko

Alina Senchenko is a Vancouver-based Ukrainian artist whose practice explores the duality of immigrant identity, belonging, displacement, memory, diasporas, stereotypes, oral histories, and reflection on recent events in Ukraine and around the world.