KHERSON– The format of amateur film marathon is becoming increasingly popular in Kherson. It is the art group Rezhyser.org that has recently been the mastermind of “videocam races” in search of original stories. Last year this association’s activists started two projects under the title Kino za 48 hodyn (Film in 48 Hours), which awoke the interest of Kherson-based amateur directors and resulted in several interesting short films. In 2013 Rezhyser.org decided to change the marathon’s format from feature to documentary, giving rise to the new project, “Kherson-Document,” which started on January 19. According to Leonid Yezhurov, leader of the art association, the experience of the previous filming shows that some education and training is necessary for the budding directors and cameramen. So this time around the association decided to hold master classes on searching for information, plots, and films, and thus invited experienced film-makers.
“We decided to choose the documentary genre in order to make new films about Kherson,” said Yezhurov to The Day. “Such films certainly do exist, but they are very few. The audience needs interesting information about our city and its residents. Today the advanced youth tend to be drawn to the capital and eventually move to Kyiv. As soon as someone feels that he or she has ‘grown out of Kherson’ in their business, they immediately want to become successful in the capital. Some only strive for money, others long for recognition, while others still dream of being part of the glam urban life which they have seen on TV. On the other hand, what does TV shows us of Kherson? What do we know about its interesting citizens, who never get in the limelight? We challenge our directors to show in their films that one can have a socially active life in Kherson just as well, realize one’s own projects, and preserve the local intellectual resource without escaping to bigger cities.”
According to Yezhurov, even more people displayed interest in the film marathon than the masterminds had originally expected. Overall 23 participants are now registered, but some may drop out of the race. Film-making is not an easy process, so some may find their enthusiasm dampened. The amateur directors are given three weeks to make a film. The final show and selection of winners are slated for February 17.
The Kherson-based film director, member of the selection committee for the International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival Docudays UA Roman Bondarchuk has accepted an invitation from Rezhyser.org to hold master classes in film shooting. The Day has interviewed Bondarchuk about the current situation with documentary film-making in Ukraine.
“We are living in a thrilling time in a thrilling country. Take, for example, Denmark or the Netherlands, where the documentary genre is well developed and 5 to 10 good directors have to compete for one theme, and compare it with Ukraine, where we could figuratively say that for 100 themes we have just a couple of directors. However, we do not have an industry which could finance the production of such films. Popular TV channels will seldom show them, big cinemas are not interested either. Government support today is non-transparent and unreasonable. But even in such circumstances we should not give up. Modern technology is becoming more and more affordable, and you can make something very special even with your mobile phone. If there is a will, there is a way: support can come through NGOs, international grants, or participation in numerous projects. We are virtually unknown abroad, because little culture product is exported from Ukraine. But the world would know more about us. I have noticed a favorable response to the presence of Ukrainian films among the participants of international film forums. This, too, could be an additional incentive for our directors in any city or region. The only thing that matters is that the presented product should be of high quality.
“During the film selection procedure for Docudays UA we have seen an increase in the quality of the Ukrainian films. If some five years ago we could hardly compare our documentaries with foreign, today we can do so with confidence. I think that Docudays UA has been a boost to quality film-making in Ukraine. Among the new productions there also are almanacs and social projects, which analyze the processes in the country and show interesting people via the language of documentaries. So I am quite optimistic, despite the lack of adequate financial possibilities.”
Can Kherson be interesting for a documentary film-maker?
“A budding director always thinks that you have to travel the world or dive to the bottom of the ocean in search of interesting themes. In reality you only have to look carefully, and you can find them in the simplest things. Kherson is no exception here.”
What would you shoot if you were a participant of this film marathon?
“The other day I opened a local newspaper and read a short story about people who came to one of the heating shelters. Personally I had no idea that such facilities existed in Kherson. The first thing that occurred to me was why, this could well be a story for a film about such heating centers and their visitors. It is essential to explore local themes, specific only to this particular city. Among the applications for the marathon I found a suggestion to make a film about a ferryman, which is a typically local job. Someone who helps people across the Dnipro to their summer houses in his launch. Everyone has heard of them, but hardly paid any attention. A ferryman’s story could become a documentary about the life on the Dnipro. I hope that our young authors will find interesting people, places, and events in the city’s life, worth to make a film of.”