Ukraine in times of war – Relax in your cinema seat for an hour of normalcy

When the war in Ukraine was two weeks old, Maria Helzunova began showing films to her family at home. At first it was Charlie Chaplin’s movie The Great Dictator – they laughed a lot. Maria Helzonova says that laughter helped in the face of fear. She works at the Dovzhenko Center in Kyiv, which is the national film archive and cultural center of Ukraine.

Her own shows gave her an idea: the underground cinema. Helzonova saw pictures of mothers and children sheltering in subway stations during the bombing alert and thought how she could help and make people’s lives a little easier.

Cinema in the subway

The Dovzhenko Center has a huge collection of Ukrainian films, including animated films. Hlazunova developed a children’s film program and approached the city with her idea for a subway cinema.

The idea arose: the screens were placed in five subway stations. In addition to the children’s program, there was also a program for adults, including silent films. Because at night, according to Hlazunov, people also like to sleep in subway stations.

For example, it showed the classic silent film “The Night Coachman” from 1928, an early masterpiece of Ukrainian cinema about the civil war in Odessa in the 1920s. But at the moment the subway cinema is not working because the subway is running regularly again.

The need for culture after the trauma of the first war

Unlike Kyiv, there is no subway in Lviv, but the employees of the Dovtenko Center also started a cinema there. Because in the first few weeks after the start of the war, all cultural and entertainment facilities in the city were closed, says Oleksandr Teluk, head of the Dovtenko Film Archive.

After the first shock of the war, there was again a need for exchange and culture in the city. The Municipal Gallery provides space for film screenings – free screenings and subsequent discussions are always very well attended.

Many classics of Ukrainian films from the National Archives will be on display. In Ukraine, says Teluk, there is no distinct cinematic culture in the house of art. Film screenings at the fair are the only way in Lviv to watch classic films on the big screen.

Usually Ukrainians tend to watch Hollywood movies, but Teluk believes that the keen interest in the show’s performances may indicate a growing interest in Ukrainian films.

Ukrainian identity and history

One reason for the interest in these films may be that classic films tell something about Ukrainian history and identity. This is important now for people in war. Recently, a series of documentaries were shown on the occasion of the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster.

The largest chain of cinemas in Ukraine, “Multiplex”, also shows a political-historical programme. “Multiplex” director Roman Romanchuk says cinemas are now showing documentaries, including films about Ukrainian history; There are discussions about this.

Currently, nine “multiplexed” cinemas are open in Ukraine. Cinemas in Kharkiv and Mariupol were destroyed. Visitors across the country are about ten percent of the usual occupancy rate.

Hollywood movie is popular again

But there are also many Ukrainian films that are working for another reason: the major Hollywood studios do not bring any new films to Ukraine at the moment. Romanchuk believes that studios such as Warner or Disney are afraid of damaging their image if there are bomb attacks during their movie shows and moviegoers are at risk.

“Multiplex” cinemas show short documentaries shot in the middle of the war, as well as films by directors such as Sergei Loznitsa – for example “Donbass” from 2018 about the war in eastern Ukraine. However, light entertainment films are becoming more and more popular, and Hollywood remakes have topped cinema charts.

Moviegoers say they want to live a normal life for an hour in the cinema. Achieving this has always been the greatest strength of cinema, both in times of crisis and war.

Subscribe to our Weekend Newsletter!

This week’s top cultural discussions and recommendations, straight to your inbox every Friday.

Thank you for registering!

We have sent you an email with a confirmation link.

If you do not see the registration confirmation email in your inbox, please check your spam folder.

welcome back!

You are already registered to this newsletter.

Leave a Comment