Does co-production kill national cinematograph?

Two Ukrainian films will compete for Oscar. Such provocative headlines we‘ve seen  on the web-sites. The truth is more controversial:  two movies, which will only qualify for the nomination in the category The Best Foreign Film, have been produced with involving of Ukrainian specialists.   Icelandic-Ukrainian-French film “Woman at war” directed by Benedikt Erlingsson was nominated from Iceland. “’Donbass” by Serhiy Loznitsa is a choice of Ukrainian Film Academy, but this movie was co-produced by thee countries except Ukraine – Germany, The Netherlands and France.

The Ukrainian officials are proud of Oscar nomination and claimed that all this is a “formality point” and according to the law these movies can be named Ukrainian because they involve our public funds (10% of all budget is enough). But critics are more sceptical. This situation reminds us of Olympic Games, when our sportsmen took part in it under the flag of the other country but we used to support these participants as our ones, doesn’t it?

What are the arguments of people who are sure that “Donbass” by Loznitsa shouldn’t represent Ukraine. Firstly, Losnitsa has been living in Germany for more than 15 years, so he has not got “pro-Ukrainian view at the Donbass conflict: ” his glance is rather vision of a foreigner. We can’t predict how this circumstances affect international jury. But we should keep in mind that the main goal of the movie is to pay attention to the War in Ukraine, and Oscar is a good reason for this. Secondly, Loznitsa is often was introduced as “Russian film director” and his statement like “Ukraine got the freedom temporally” was perceived by Ukrainian patriots without enthusiasm. What message will we give to the USA and the word with Loznitsa’s movie which talks rather about conduct of people during Civil war but not about conflict between Russia and Ukraine?

Meanwhile experts explain their choice very simple: Loznitsa is well known and Donbass has taken prize at Cannas Festival. It gives Ukraine a chance to be chosen from almost 100 foreign movies to 8-list that will be screened in Los-Angeles.

Probably, we have to recognize that Ukrainian film Industry is still weak and few local films, which have success in our country, are not interesting for the world audience. That’s why co-production is one way to make movies with a good quality. But in this case we have the risk to lose our national identity and transform our country into a place with inexpensive locations and staff. Not more.  “Woman at war” was filmed in Carpathians partly. This is a story about  Halla, a choir conductor. One day, her  long-forgotten application to adopt an orphan child from Ukraine  is approved. At the same time, the government ramps up police and propaganda efforts in order to catch and discredit her. The 90% of movie’s plot happens in Iceland, we observe Ukrainians in the screen in several episodes and hear music of our folk trio. Not bad, but we want more national fetchers!

 The comedy “IZY” was shot at Carpathians locations by Italian film director Andrea Magnani. According  to the plot 40-year-old Italian named Isidoro (Izy), at the request of his brother, carries a coffin from Italy to the high-mountainous Carpathian village with the body of a Ukrainian guest worker who died at the construction site. “IZY” was presented in 26 countries and was awarded at the Venice Film Festival. It is a win, but we want our own win, that we will not divide with anyone else. Is it too presumptuous?

It is thought that in the world of globalization  we have to  accept new rules and become team players.  But sometimes we have chances to demonstrate our national identity. The last example is drama by Marysya Nikytuk “When the trees fall”, a Ukraine-Macedonia-Poland co-production, bowed in the Panorama section of the Berlinale. This is the story of a five year old little rebellious girl Vitka with her teenage cousin Larysa and her boyfriend, the young criminal Scar unfolding in a Ukrainian provincial setting. The movie with Ukrainian actors was highly praised by critics and got  positive reviews.

Probably, we should use co-production more often to promote the real Ukrainian view in the cinema?

Olena Solodovnikova