Ukrainian Film Festival, Kinofest NYC, Plumbs the Post-Soviet Era

The Other Chelsea- an old soviet monumentCourtesy of Kinofest NYC A still from “The Other Cheslea.”

Maryna Vroda, whose film “Cross Country” won the Palme d’Or for best short film at the Cannes Film Festival last year, will make her stateside debut at the Ukrainian Museum this Thursday. She’s one of four Ukrainian filmmakers – plus one from Berlin and another from Brooklyn – who will kick off this year’s Ukrainian and Post-Soviet Film Fest, dubbed Kinofest NYC.

The festival is sponsored by neighborhood institutions such as the Self Reliance Federal Credit Union and Veselka, which will cater a reception following Thursday’s screening. Andrew Kotliar, its director, said he created it three years ago with the goal of “celebrating creativity, not an ethnicity,” though he also hoped to bring together some divided groups.

His audience includes the Ukrainian community in the East Village – primarily World War II-era immigrants from the western half of the country – as well as the Russian-speaking Ukrainians of Brighton Beach. “The first year, we decided to screen some films in Russian and that was offensive to some of the Ukrainian-speaking people we have here in the East Village,” said Mr. Kotliar. But Russian was the “lingua franca” for all Soviet Union states, so Kinofest NYC continues to show films in Russian as well as Ukrainian (they’re subtitled in English).

Goodbye,-Ukraine-film-stillCourtesy of Kinofest NYC. A still from “Goodbye, Ukraine!”

All of the films set for screening this year are rooted in the Post-Soviet experience. “The Other Chelsea,” a documentary that Mr. Kotliar says fuses “power, politics and sports,” examines the current state of Donetsk, home of the soccer team that will host Euro 2012 this summer, but also a hotbed of corruption.

Since independence in 1991, Ukrainians have been streaming out of their country by the millions. “Health care is collapsed, people die of things they shouldn’t die of,” said Mr. Kotliar, a first-generation American.

On Sunday, filmmaker Volodymyr Tykhyy will present “Goodbye, Ukraine!”, a collection of six films based on this trend, by various directors. Mr. Tykhyy will be available for a question and answer session as well.

Kinofest NYC runs from May 3 to May 6 at the Ukrainian Museum and Anthology Film Archives. Tickets are $10 per session and can be purchased online or at the door half an hour before showtime.