Ivan Sautkin: A Poem for Litlle People

I think the still photo says all about the approach and the intention of the director: In the middle of the horrible war an old woman writes and reads poems, surrounded by flowers; here in the beginning of the film and later on she reads a poem addressed to a mother from her son, a soldier in the Russian army. The poems are for the motherland Ukraine, her contribution. The other old woman the director talks about below in a quote I have taken from the press release. It’s a film that does not go with the soldiers to the front line even if the sound of war is there all the time.

Old women, otherwise, are characters, named like that at the end credits, who together with old men are evacuated by the volunteers, who drive from place to place, village to village to pick up people in areas, where they are in danger. A 91 old grandmother and her blind husband are led to the rescue car, aunt Nina with her cat the same, the woman who are worried for her paralyzed brother and “can I take my cat”, the 87 year old woman who is picked up, her son stays and comes out to the evacuaters to give them a big jar of honey, are you a bee keeper, they ask, yes is the answer, the painter, younger than the other, who has to leave his atelier…

And in a morning a group of nurses and doctors meet to pray before they go with the ambulances to meet people in shelters – to help. That it the theme, to help, in whatever religious or not interpretation you want to choose, in the name of compassion and humanity, it happens in Ukraine, in Gaza, all over, and making a film is also to help as Ivan Sautkin writes:

“At the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, I, like most of my colleagues, was confused.  Everything I was doing until that moment lost its value. The world of war is radically different from everything we are used to. My first reaction was to mobilize and pick up a gun, but I made the rational decision to pick up my camera.  I started with a series of short documentaries.  With their help, I discovered a new reality for myself.  

After the de-occupation of the north of Ukraine, I went to the village where my old friend Zinaida Lukyanenko lives. I was interested in how she survived the difficult times and learned that during the occupation she did not sit idly by but helped our military.  I was struck by the courage of this woman and it was from her story that my film began. I keep in touch with my characters in the film, we also became close friends. I try to help their mission as much as I can and in the future I plan to return to the front line territory to work with them.This movie taught me many things. The most valuable experience is the ability to appreciate people regardless of their views and other things that distance us from each other.”

What can I say: This is a rich and beautiful film in the fragmented way it is made – Sautkin is the cinematographer himself I understand – with the way it embraces those who help and those who are helped. And its audience.

Ukraine and other countries, 2024, 86 mins.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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