Ukrainian cinema officially dates back to September 1896, when photographer Alfred Fedetski filmed several newsreels. Since then, our cinema has survived soviet orders, global russification, perestroika and the arrival of independence... So, where is it? Sometimes we hear that our movies win awards at some foreign contests or that graduates of Karpenko-Kariy University shoot talented reels...  Unfortunately, we do not see those.

ForUm had an interview with famous Ukrainian actor, director, scriptwriter and producer Viktor Andriyenko to learn how Ukrainian cinema lives now and what it lacks to get to the world stage.

- September 8 our country celebrates the Day of Ukrainian cinema. Is there anything to celebrate? What is the current state of Ukrainian filmmaking industry?

- Well, it is a holiday, but the holiday with tears in the eyes. Our professional - second directors, operators, scriptwriters and so on - leave our cinema for places where they are paid more. Those who stay do not work for a full due. The majority of actors go to act in TV series where they play lightly, without working on a character. Unfortunately, this is the period when people are not interested in cinema work. There are very few crazy professionals (in a good sense), who would stay the whole night working on one episode.

- What are the obstacles for our cinema to reach the world level?

- You know, it's funny that I cannot even name a reason. Earlier it was lack of money. They used to say: 'Give me money and I will change the world.' Now there is money, but we have only 18 pictures in progress (five are for kids), and I am not sure in success of all of them. This time nobody can say he did not have money or support.

In fact, we need more than one movie to have something to compare with. The movie "He Who Went Through Fire" was a hit, but we need 20 similar movies to compete with American cinema. Our strength is in native for Ukrainians mentality and simplicity, not in special effects.

Moreover, nobody wants to promote the national product, even the first national state channel asks for money. After the success of "He Who Went Through Fire", the Culture Ministry decided on free of charge promotion of the domestic product. And it's not only billboards, but TV ads as well. We manage to balance the cinema industry gradually. There is a desire, there are attempts, and all we need is long-lasting creative powers.

- How is it going with your new project "Strong Ivan"? When will the film come to movie theatres?

- It was a surprise for me that my and Ihor Pysmennyi's script took the first place at "Coronation of the word" and that we won the tender on movie production with 100% state financing. Such responsibility is a little bit scary. I do want the cinema to rise in Ukraine and I thank the Culture Ministry and the minister personally. The financing is stable and in time, thus in mid-February we plan the movie's first night.

- Let's talk about the past. How difficult was the path of cinema in Ukraine after declaration of independence? Looking at you, for some reason I remember stories about "Show of long noses" (Shou dovgonosykiv) and how actors were making scenery from garbage and were inventing the scrip right on the air.  

- Well, "Show of long noses" is not exactly the cinema, but it created a situation, when 20 professionals did not go to sell clothes on the market and did not go on the bottle, but stayed in the cinema and remained specialists. Later they passed on experience to the next generation.

- You don't like to recall those time, do you?

- Why not, I do remember. Those times, though, were not the times of creation, but only survival. That absurd humor helped people to survive the crisis of 90ies. I remember I met one man back then who thanked me for the show. Thank you for this half an hour of rest, when I don't have to think about how to get money to survive, he said then.

From 1991 to 1999 the good base of specialists was destroyed, and I am glad that with Moscow's money we can restore it now. Young and talented specialists - operators, directors - were lost. In fact, we lost the whole generation of cinema men. But thanks to the Russian cinema and TV, which started to film in Ukraine we could revive these talents.   

- How is the work in Russia? Is there difference comparing to Ukrainian realias?

- There is a big difference. Professional actors work hard there. An actor comes for casting and performs three-four times per day to convince the jury. Ukrainian actors do not care whether they get the role or not. They come for casting and work half-heartedly. Once I had one theatre actor in casting. I wanted to give him a role and tried to explain the character I had in mind, but this actor could not do simple things and instead of performing he started to teach me how to film.

- Does it happen that an actor is a comic by nature and cannot play dramatic roles? Or a professional can do anything?

- No, our actors do not have this problem, and it speaks about manysidedness of our acting school. In Hollywood, American comics are always comics, like Jim Carrey for example. He tried a dramatic role but failed. However, there are true actors, both foreign, like Meryl Streep and Al Pacino, and ours, like Ivan Mykolaichuk, Ivan Havryliuk, Mykhailo Holubovych - people who are not limited by one country, but are actors of the world. By the way, people always ask me a silly question: 'Are you a comic?' Yes, the God gave the sense of humor to unnerve and calm down people. When my production team is on edge, I start joking to ease the things.

- Tell us some funny story, than happened during the filming.

- When we went to Cannes to present "Strong Ivan" we took the poster of Dmytro Khaladzhy picturing Ivan with us. The same poster we hang out of the Chernovitski musical and drama theatre. One day during a break in shooting, Dmytro in makeup went in the street, where a boy came to him and asked for a photo. The boy asked Dmytro to pose near the poster and having taken the picture the boy pointed at Dmytro and said: 'You do look like him.'

- How to make a true film, in your opinion?

- As Steven Spielberg once said, shooting a movie, just tell a story, but make it interesting. I can add that you should tell a story you personally like, and the success will come.

Anastasia Pika, photos by Maxim Trebukhov


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