Password: Palianytsia. How screenings of Ukrainian films went in the United Kingdom

On June 23–28, Docudays UA together with the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute presented the Password: Palianytsia programme at Sheffield DocFest.

 It featured 6 contemporary Ukrainian documentaries in the film programme, 8 film projects at the stage of production and/or postproduction in Sheffield’s industry section, a discussion titled When it comes to Ukraine, what should one know?, and a component from the DOCU/SYNTHESIS programme in the Alternate Realities exhibition.

Let us tell you more about how the Ukrainian events went at the British film festival.

The audience saw 4 films from the National Competition of Docudays UA 2022: Plai. A Mountain Path by Eva Dzhyshyashvili, Mountains and Heaven in Between by Dmytro Hreshko, Pryvoz by Eva Neymann and Infinity According to Florian by Oleksiy Radynski; as well as the film which was supposed to open the 19th Docudays UA: Boney Piles by Taras Tomenko, and Andriy Bondarenko and Myro Klochko’s short film Peace and Quiet, filmed on the first two weeks of the full-scale war against Ukraine.

“This wasn’t the first time when we organized screenings of Ukrainian films abroad,” shares Roman Bondarchuk, Art Director of Docudays UA, jury member for debuts at Sheffield DocFest. “But in Sheffield in particular, our presence was especially massive and visible. It was nice for us, Ukrainians, to hear many sincere words of support and solidarity, practical advice and offers to help filmmakers with their daily work in Ukraine and the promotion of their films abroad.

“According to Claire Stewart, the director of Sheffield DocFest, preparing this programme was important both to bring the experience of Ukrainians closer to their festival audience and to keep Ukraine in the news. So that the discussion of life and the tragic events in our country continue not only among governments, but also among institutions, communities and citizens. Everyone can contribute to the victory in Ukraine at their own level, by shaping public opinion, by spreading the truth.”

In addition, as a part of the Sheffield DocFest Official Selection, the festival hosted screenings of other Ukrainian films: Fragile Memory by Igor Ivanko, Outside—Ukraine by Olha Zhurba, One Day in Ukraine by Volodymyr Tykhyy, and Overcoming the Darkness by Kinodopomoga.

The Ukrainian film One Day in Ukraine by Volodymyr Tykhyy received a Special Mention from the festival jury in the festival’s main competition. A screening of this film opened the UK/UA Season of Culture, organized by the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute, of which the Password: Palianytsia programme was a part.

For the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute, it was important to represent Ukraine at Sheffield DocFest with a large delegation and a full-fledged programme through a pro-Ukrainian lens. Today, it is important for us to show everything that’s going on during this horrible war, not only from the perspective of the news, but also through cinema as one of the key creative sectors in Ukraine. Now, it is more important than ever to make new films which show the modern Ukrainian culture available for the international audience to watch,” summed up Scott McDonald, CEO of the British Council, and Volodymyr Sheyko, Director General of the Ukrainian Institute.

We also discussed the connection between the most progressive scientific ideas of the 20th century and the contemporary Ukrainian cybernetic art in Sheffield. Within the DOCU/SYNTHESIS programme, which was a part of the Alternate Realities exhibition, we presented Out-of-Body Experience, an artwork by a group of young Ukrainian media artists Photinus Studio, as well as Capturing with an Unprecedented Task (1982, directed by Lev Udovenko), a popular science film created at the KyivNaukFilm studio.

Oleksandra Nabiyeva, the curator of the DOCU/SYNTHESIS programme, explains:

We integrated the DOCU/SYNTHESIS component into the main Alternate Realities exhibition. It is a Sheffield DocFest programme which pushes the boundaries of traditional documentary using new media. However, the actual alternate realities are unfolding for all of us not in the visionary worlds of the gallery space. That is why the collaboration with Sheffield DocFest became an important manifestation of solidarity and dialogue in the language of contemporary art.”

The exhibition also included grassroots materials with testimonies and everyday experience of war by Ukrainian social media users.

Viktoria Leshchenko, Programme Director of Docudays UA, sums up: 

“I think our participation in Sheffield DocFest will bring many positive results for our colleagues, Ukrainian filmmakers. Among other things, for the Ukrainian delegation, Sheffield was a unique experience because it allowed us all to finally talk in person. Interaction of this kind is one of the most valuable things that happened here. I hope we will continue to find space for communication and for the growth of our film community.”

More details about the experience and results of the participation of Ukrainian film projects in Sheffield DocFest industry sections will be shared in our upcoming updates.

All events in the programme were a part of the UK/UA Season of Culture, organized by the British Council and the Ukrainian Institute.