Olha Zhurba: Outside

… She has been following Roma from meeting him on Maidan in 2014 until today, where the boy has grown to be a teenager turning 18 very soon. He was living on Maidan, he was in an orphanage, he has problems in reading, he had teachers in Maidan, he has teachers in the orphanage, he has done stupid things and risks to be put in jail if he repeats it…

That’s what I wrote in 2019 after an emotionally strong presentation in Kyiv by Olha Zhurba of her documentary project ”Roma” that now premieres at CPH:DOX. After a long period of editing with the participation of Danish Niels Pagh Andersen and succesful fundraising that brought Danish and Dutch companies in as co-producers with an Ukrainian company and thus guaranteed that the film will have a considerable distribution not only to these countries but to festivals all over. And hopefully to broadcasters. In Kyiv in 2019 Olha Zhurba had followed Roma on her own with no financial help and she said she was not sure if there was a film…

Later on she wrote to me: (Actually) I always believed that there will be a film, even when I was losing Roma or he kicked me off; deep in my heart I had that filmmakers’ confidence and strong believe that this film will be because people must see it!  I didn’t know when it will be and if it will be good but each day I felt gratefulness to the process that were changing me in a better way. It was my power to move further…

…people must see it, she writes, yes absolutely. The end result is great, shifting from now and then, having (excellent narrative solution) the ”now” being phone calls from the director to Roma, who is ”outside” as he has been through his whole young life. From his locked-in position, due to robbery, he is asked to remember and he does so making the audience ready to piece together his role at Maidan in 2014, his stay with brother Kolya, who has been in jail several times, his relation to his mother, his stay at the orphanage, his fun with girls, his meeting with an American woman (OMG!), who has adopted his two sisters, his drug abuse…

Roma is a clever and charming boy/young man. He can reflect on his own situation, he can verbalise – already when he was a school boy – what he wants, when he gets older, what could ”have saved” him from all the shit he gets into.

Roma, declared ”useless” by some of the Maidan fighters, is seen looking for his mother on Maidan. He finds her briefly, she is in a bad state – and he finds together with Kolya her grave in one of the many fine scenes of a film that was finished before the Russian invasion – one can’t help thinking about that when the Maidan Square comes up every night on television right now. And when I read that Olha Zhurba is in Kyiv filming.

Did I say that this is a Must-See at CPH:DOX.

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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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