Ukraine is more than the sum of its troubles. A broad, multifaceted country whose cultural makeup and landscape refute easy characterization. Yet war, poverty, and corruption have undoubtedly devastated and divided the nation.
Originally part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the modern state of Ukraine has been pulled between competing political forces like no other country in Europe, culminating in the Russian annexation of Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and continuing through the on-going war in the East of the country. It is difficult to escape these troubles when conjuring an image of the country.
But as movie lovers we should emphasize that the country is responsible for some of the cinema's greatest artists—Kira Muratova (1934-2018), Aleksandr Dovzhenko (1894-1956), Larissa Sheptiko (1938-1979)—and as the direct inspiration for many of its most enduring images. We need hardly point out that arguably the most famous and influential of sequences in cinema is the Odessa Steps sequence from Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, establishing as vivid an image of a single nation and movement as have ever been put to film.
That revolutionary spirit continues with the Ukrainian cinema of today with celebrated films like Sergei Loznitsa's Maidan or in a more contemplative mode Vitaly Mansky's Close Relations. But it is a cinema that reflects the country's ongoing problems and major setbacks. "No obvious signs" is the phrase that Ukrainian soldiers hear in hospitals when they return from war with physiological traumas. It is the title for our program, an attempt to reflect on the traumas and complexities of the Ukrainian people. These soldiers, like the troubled country itself, struggle to find a salvation and a route out of the darkness.
Their bodies have no injuries; their wounds are deeper.
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