Ostrochovsky, Pekarcik: Photophobia

… with the first names Ivan and Pavol are known by me for their “Velvet Terrorists”, that I called “an original, intelligent and humorous” film in a review from 2013 (https://filmkommentaren.dk/ostrochovsky-pekarcik-kerekes-velvet-terrorists/). If you take away “Humorous” and use “poetic” instead, it fits what I think of this film from a metrostation in Kharkiv Ukraine. Filmed during 4 months from the day after the full-scale invasion of Russia into Ukraine.

Original in the way it uses the “photophobia”. The family that lives underground in the metro does not dare to exit in fear of light and of the strikes happening or that could happen just walking on grass as one says – mines are placed there. And intelligent in the way the two main protagonists, Nikita and Vika, around 12 years old, can experience the world outside through watching slides of people (mostly) posing for the camera holding animals. This is how the world is shown outside in the slides. With smoke from bombings but also with the sun rays that the two can catch, when they go to the staircase to the metro. Poetry!

Nikita wants to go out, his mother says no, brings him to the doctor – there is a clinic in the metro, much is very organized here – who gives him some vitamine pills and advice to write a diary instead of staring at his cell phone all the time. But he meets Vika and that becomes a small love story with the two running around in the metro having fun and thus also showing us viewers around in the world downstairs, where small “homes” are arranged and where Nikita’s mother is cooking the okroshka soup, he likes.

Apart from the intelligent set-up of the love story of the two kids, accompanied by a cowboy-hat bearded singer who with his guitar brings love songs alive, the film gives the audience numerous sequences of impressions and stories of especially older people, who have ended up here, whose relatives have passed away or are not to get hold of. Classical documentary scenes from the beginning of a senseless war.

Slovakia, Czech Republic, Ukraine, 71 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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