Ukraine is ‘alone’ amid threat of Russian invasion, says director of film set in Ukraine’s Donbass region just after Malaysian airline MH17 plane was hit by a Russian missile in July 2014.
Klondike, written and directed by Maryna Er Gorbach, had its world premiere this week at Sundance Film Festival. Because the event is online, Gorbach is in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv with his film crew, although his home is in Istanbul.
In the Klondike, Irika, played by Oxana Cherkashyna, is heavily pregnant and refuses to leave her home on the Russian-Ukrainian border, even after the village has been taken over by armed forces. She wants to focus on the birth of her baby even as a hole is blown in the side of her house, and she and her husband find themselves at the center of an international air disaster.
The events of 2014, including the annexation of Crimea in March 2014, marked the beginning of the conflict with Russia, says Gorbach, and she argues that many Ukrainians thought the crash of MH17 would mark its swift end. 283 passengers, including 80 children, and 15 crew members were on board the airline flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
“When it happened, I remember that day because it was so unbelievable, and people were saying it was such an unacceptable event, that Europe and the world would not accept this tragedy,” he said. she recalls.
“People said it was the last day of the war because for us it had started with Crimea a few months earlier. There was this dream that Europe and the world would not close their eyes and see what was happening in Ukraine, they would do something. But now in Ukraine, everything is in our hands.
When asked if she thinks the country stands alone against Russia, despite the international community’s threat of sanctions against Russia and the sending of troops to the region, Gorbach replies: “I feel like that.” .
The sense that the war began almost eight years ago, Gorbach adds, means there is an atmosphere of calm and normality in the Ukrainian capital, despite global political tensions.
“It’s not big news for us, you know, although I understand it’s in the media now and it seems like we’re pushing for bigger events. It’s actually really like what I I did in the Klondike is this idea of living parallel lives, a normal life, one with bombings.
“We were there at dinner today, eating soup and wondering what we would do if we faced a bomb in the house, and wondering if we had enough gas to make sure to be able to take our families out. But we’ve been in this situation for many years, so that’s why we usually talk about very day-to-day things, not huge changes.
But the director admits, like her heroine, Irika, that it is difficult to imagine the worst until it happens.
“Irika is a bit big-headed, she doesn’t see the need to escape, she just thinks she can tell the troops to get lost if they come to her house, and it’s only at the last moment that ‘she realizes that the danger is there. her. I think it’s very similar to us, because if someone comes to take my house, I won’t tell you so we try to be calm. But our humanity tells us to shut up and focus on the little things, to get on with life.
Klondike is dedicated to its end for women, which Gorbach says is “a sign of a greater meaning in life, because in war you can’t kill everybody, you know? And as a woman gives life, as long as there is one more woman, it is still possible to continue life. Irika has a survival instinct, to have her baby.
“I think women are always one step ahead. A woman always thinks about what she is going to do after the fighting is over. Because the fights will end, anyway, whether it’s dramatic or not. That’s why the film follows sunrises and sunsets, these things are completely unchanging and will continue even if war breaks out.
Putin’s Russia is also in the spotlight this year at the Sundance Film Festival with the premiere late last night of Navalny, a fly documentary by Dan Roher, about imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny. He was poisoned in August 2020 and claims he was executed on the orders of President Putinthat the Kremlin has refuse. In the film, Navalny pranks those he thinks poisoned him and asks one of them to reveal details about it.
Gorbach says many, like her, in Ukraine no longer have sympathy for Russia having Putin as its leader.
“For Ukraine, Russia is the country that has the national idea of going to war. And there is no longer any sympathy or understanding that they have for this government. Because their elections show that they still support their President. That means their national idea is war, because if their national idea was to create, to produce, to raise children, to protest, I don’t know – then he wouldn’t be president. And I would be really happy if people in Russia had the desire to change their destiny. Because their president right now is also their destiny, and that’s also very sad.
The Sundance Film Festival continues through January 31, 2022. For more Klondike information, Click here.