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"Family Portrait in Black and White," Ukrainian film, SIFF

Monday, May 21, 2012 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Harvard Exit

In a small village in racially charged Ukraine, headstrong Olga Nenya is foster-mom to 16 Ukrainian-African orphans. Despite hardships caused by their lack of money and the racist society that surrounds them, these abandoned kids function as a family unit under Olga’s relentless dictatorial guidance. The children are eloquent and mature beyond their years, speaking perfect Russian and Ukrainian and openly discussing their concerns about their futures. Even though they are grateful for Olga, her strong character causes rifts with some of the kids. Over three summers, director Julia Ivanova visited Olga and her family in their farmhouse on the outskirts of Sumy, Ukraine, where they live with no indoor toilet and raise livestock, grow vegetables, and deal with local officials who are no help at all. “The film’s concept changed from the initial idea,” says Ivanova. “I thought I would make a film about the issues related to racism in Eastern Europe. Instead, I ended up making a multilayered complex exploration of a family.” In fact, it’s both, offering deep insight into a fraught community and into the passions, hopes, and hardships of a unique homemade family.

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