Grand Prix Semaine de la critique | Locarno Film Festival 2022
Theatre • Art Therapy • Ukrainian Youth • Trauma of War • Shakespeare
Best Documentary Film | Adelaide International Film Festival 2022
Audience Award for the Best Documentary Film | Trieste Film Festival 2023
Date of Completion: 2022 | Run Time: 85 minutes | Language: Ukranian & Russian with English subtitles | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript | Directors: Elwira Niewiera & Piotr Rosołowski | Producers: Magdalena Kamińska, Agata Szymańska, & Matthias Miegel | Scriptwriters: Elwira Niewiera & Piotr Rosołowski | Director of Photography: Piotr Rosołowski | Editing: Agata Cierniak | Sound: Jonathan Schorr
A few months prior to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, five young women and men participate in a unique stage production that attempts to relate their war experiences to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. For each of them, the stage is a platform to express their grief and trauma through the famous question, “to be or not to be,” a dilemma that applies to their own lives. The protagonists fight against disappointment, powerlessness, and anger, trying to put their lives back in order while processing their painful past: SLAVIK, who went through a hell of war and captivity as a soldier, KATYA, who longs for her mother’s forgiveness for joining the army, RODION, who escaped from Donbas and is now facing growing homophobia, ROMAN, who is still struggling with the traumatic memories of his war experience as a paramedic on the battlefield, and OXANA who struggles on an artistic frontline as an actress. The rehearsals for the play are combined with an intense glimpse into the characters' lives: a powerful portrait of a generation coping with the trauma of war which, after Russia's invasion, is now their present and future alike.
These young Ukrainians talk about the cruelty of war and their own experiences of it, including torture, collecting the bodies of those killed and their suicidal thoughts. They share intense emotions, including aggression, as they prepare for their performance. They also discuss the plight of people in Donetsk.