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On the cover
7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope

28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidans three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the countrys stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.


Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.


Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.


Kyiv Kino

Coming Attraction

Something terrible happened in my life that changed everything... Those are the words lead-character Sade utters at the start of the Feathered Dreams trailer and they resonate with emotion. What follows is a backing track featuring the rapid plucking of strings, and scenes of her being pursued by neo-Nazi skinheads in Kyiv, before a stranger intervenes...Drama, romance, danger, humour and ultimately happiness...on the face of it this movie has it all. Feathered Dreams has all the makings of an emotional cinematic roller coaster.

Not a lot is known about the Nigerian film industry and its popular offshoot, Nollywood, but buzz is growing largely due to international co-productions. And those collaborations are occurring in the least-expected places. Feathered Dreams could be billed as Nollywood and Ukraine meet and represents the first joint venture between Nigerian and Ukrainian filmmakers. As unlikely as the partnership seems, truth can be stranger than fiction this film is based on a true story.

The Plot Thickens
Feathered Dreams is based on the true-life tale of a Nigerian girl Sade (played by Nollywood actress Omoni Oboli) who comes to study in Ukraine after her fathers untimely death. She is forced to abandon her dreams of a musical career by her mother in favour of studying medicine in Kyiv. During her time at the Medical Institute of Kyiv, she faces numerous difficulties, before, ultimately, finding love.
Produced by Ukrainian company Highlight Pictures, the film is a family-affair. Andriy Rozhen, who plays the male lead, co-produces (with his brother Phillip) and directs the film, as well as having also co-authored the script with his father Alexander, a well-known local screenwriter. While the story is largely from a Nigerian in Ukraines perspective, the films funding came from a Ukrainian with business interests in Nigeria Ihor Maron, who was inspired to invest due to the number of Nigerians he had encountered in Abuja, Nigerias capital, who had studied in the former Soviet UNI0N and spoke both Russian and Ukrainian. What transpired was the idea to shoot a film about foreigners in Ukraine, but also capture the universal experience of being strangers in a foreign land.

Hot Topic
Rozhen says the premise of the movie was to focus on a problematic issue in Africa. If children want to follow an artistic career, their parents dont allow them to because the most popular professions in Africa are lawyers or doctors the type of professions that are more likely to earn money. The point of this film is to get parents thinking about what could happen if they take money out of the equation and consider that their children would be happier doing what they want to do.
Philippa Peter, whom the character of Sade is inspired by, experienced this. As she tells it, she was sent to Ukraine eight years ago to study medicine and then switched to something she enjoyed more, namely, business management. Ultimately, however, she dreams of becoming a successful entertainer/businesswoman. Its quite common back home for parents to have a huge influence in their childrens career path, most of the time they actually decide what their children should study. I thought it was a great idea for the Rozhens to shoot a film on this hot topic, Peter says.

The Leads
Rozhen had no acting experience prior to starring in the film aside from the acting lessons he had taken during his years in drama school. His stepping into the shoes of leading man was out of necessity as 90% of the film is in English. Its not because I wanted to, but it was necessary. In Ukraine, we dont really have any English-speaking actors. Its a big problem here.
Experience was not an issue for actress Omoni Oboli, as she is also a filmmaker and one of the top five actresses in Nigeria. Oboli says she was able to connect with her character immediately due to the fact she too studied abroad for a year while in university. She has also lost a parent and was able to draw on that experience. What does she hope audiences will gain from the film? I hope they will be thoroughly entertained, first of all. I also hope they will relive Sades experience through me and get a better understanding of what people go through sometimes when they have to go to school or work in a country other than theirs own.

Racism Problem or Not?
While the film does include a scene with a racist attack, Rozhen says its more for dramatic effect than representing a typical experience. While making the film, I wouldnt say that we encountered racism, he says. According to him, the biggest problem in Ukraine isnt racism but ignorance to other cultures. People who live here are very unaware of foreign students here. Our aim is to make locals see that theyre young students like us just from another country. We want to bring awareness and maybe higher tolerance.
Oboli had heard about racism in Ukraine before coming here but personally had no negative experiences. It showed me a different side of Ukraine and Ukrainians. I got to see how great and fun loving they are! Peter agrees: So far so good. Ive experienced being treated differently because of my ethnicity/skin colour, but since Id mentally prepared myself I didnt pay attention to it that much. Ive met many lovely and kind people here, I love them dearly and thats what matters most.

The Woods
Nollywood is currently the second largest film industry in the world in terms of the number of film productions churned out per year after Bollywood. Hollywood is the third largest. Now, Ukraine is claiming a little slice of the lights, camera, action producing a feature-length film for the African and international film market. The Rozhen brothers are more known for their accomplishments in music videos and advertising, but with this project they thought outside the box they thought big.
Andriy Rozhen emphasises the importance of cooperating with other countries and how venturing into unknown territory could change the path of the Ukrainian film industry. Im probably one of the first directors in Europe to make a feature film for Nigeria, for Africa. Its important for cinematographers, to know that in Africa theres also a big market. His brother Phillip agrees and cites the statistics: Nigeria produces 1,100 films per year, Ukraine only 2.5 per year. The Nigerian appetite for film is insatiable, he says. Of course the quality of movies is low. However, given the rapid pace Nigerian cinematography is developing, he believes that quantity will soon give way to quality. The brothers plan to tap into opportunities in the Nigerian film industry in future.

Release Date
The Rozhens were set to present Feathered Dreams at the Odesa Film Festival last July as a work in progress, but opted not to as it was very near completion. Now, the film is tipped to premiere in May at this years Cannes Film Festival (1526 May), though not in the competition programme, rather in the Film Market, or Marché Du Film. A release in Nigerias most-populous city, Lagos, will follow before wider release. If all goes to plan, the brothers hope the film will also be shown in 2,000 cinemas in the US. Peter, as the films inspiration, believes it will be a success. My hope and prayer is that people wont just see this movie as pure entertainment but theyll connect to the story, be inspired, learn something positive from it and apply it to their lives. Everything is possible, dont stop believing.

Feathered Dreams is set for its official premiere in the Ukrainian Pavilion at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival on 21 May in the Palais Theatre at 17.30. In addition to various Ukrainian films in progress, as well as 12 shorts, this is the only finished feature-length film that will be shown. Good luck!

Daniela Schmiedlechner

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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didnt Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they dont understand the meaning of these words.

    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades childrens favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. Whats On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.


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