On the evening of the 2nd of May in Prague cinema Bio|Око documentary film Myth was screened. If you have not seen this film yet, we wholeheartedly suggest you do. Myth is a  film about Wassyl Slipak – Ukrainian, soloist of Paris Opera, who was killed by the sniper bullet in the war in the Eastern Ukraine. One of the directors of the film has told Myth to be the most financially successful documentary film in Ukraine: “It was screened in all big movie-theatres of all the major cities”. 

Screening in Prague was organized by the NGO Ukrainian European Perspective and “UAportal”. “We do not have the opportunity to make big commercials and promotions, so we are working by means of guerilla marketing and we invite you all to join this fight!” – commented movie director Leonid Kanter (and every joke is only partly a joke, as we all know). NGOs and volunteers from Ukrainian diasporas help organizing screenings around the world. This way Myth has already been on the tour in USA, Canada, Italy, Germany, and after Prague it will be on the way to Poland. Regular tour team of the film counts two people: director Leonid Kanter and producer Kateryna Mizina. Some screenings are also presented by the illustrator-cartoonist Yurko Zhuravel.

One of two directors of the film Leonid Kanter

Leonid Kanter has explained UAportal his ecision to personally take the film on the tour to the countries of Europe and world:

When a little child is born, he or she has to be taught how to walk first, figuratively speaking. This is exactly what is now happening to our film. Film is ready, but if we just give it away to be screened, it would be screened under terrible circumstances. So, it has to be accompanied. We are taking the film around the world, making sure it is screened in good technical conditions, that people would come, that promotion will be good and so on. Why? Because for us it is extremely important, that as many people as possible would get to know the story of Wassyl Slipak. Everyone, who knows this story, will not think of Ukraine as of only varenyky or Chornobyl. People will know Ukraine as Wassyl Spivak, they will love Ukraine and try to help this country.

Money, collected at the screening, will be given by Ukrainian European Perspective to the film team for the future projects. Also the audience had a chance to support Ukrainian film production. There was a box for donations and an opportunity to buy merchandise. Leonid and Kateryna had brought t-shirts with Myth design and DVD with the previous documentary film “The Ukrainians” about defending Donetsk airport – by the directors of Myth Leonif Kanter and Ivan Iasnii. There was also an auction and calendar “Know our people” with illustraton by Yurko Zhuravel was sold – the price had risen to 3 000 CZK. Yurko Zhuravel – author of the illustrations in Myth, leader of the music band OT VINTA and Ukrainian educator, has created the calendar with caricatures of famous Ukrainians, who have in some way contributed to the world. The are more than hundred prominent people on that list – 9 people for each months – painters, poets, soldiers, philosophers, politics, starting with Yaroslav the Wise and to the heroes of today. On the last page of the calendar there is a caricature of Wassyl Slipak.

We have wondered, how big the main team of Myth-creators is. Leonid Kanter answered simply: “We do not have main team”.

We always work on the basis of freelance and assemble a team for the project. We always try to get the stars of the industry, all the best ones – best of the best. I know them all, to be honest, because I have studied with some of them, have been growing up together with the others, have worked with them. The most pressing issue is usually the money. Even though almost all of those people say: “We are ready to work for free” – in reality that means they are ready to work in the free from this day-jobs time. These people do, however, have so much work, that they have no free time. So this type of work – once a week or at night after work – is not productive.How long did it take to create Myth?17 months.

At some point Wassyl’s brother Orest Slipak has joined  the team.

He has gotten involved, has been giving us suggestions and telling everything. We have been constantly meeting with him, talking. When we’ve been to France, he has also come. So, he has been our guide to his brother’s life.

It is safe to say, that film Myth does not offer answers about life, choice and death of Wassyl Slipak, but on the other hand – asks questions. “What did Wassyl Slipak die for?” Why did he choose Donbass trenches over Parisian stage? How did Wassyl Slipak love? The theme of two worlds – those of life and war – has so much to it, is so personal, special, with no easy answers. Leonid Kanter himself knows both worlds first-hand – he has also been to war. In the year 2014 Leonid served in the volunteer battalion: “For three days we were figuring out the rifles and for three days we were learning to march. After 6 days of getting prepared, on the 7th, we have left to the front line”. Wassyl Slipak was serving in the volunteer Ukrainian corps Pravyj Sektor. There were people of strong beliefs and people of decision fighting in the volunteer battalions, people with minimal experience but maximum inner strength. Because that was the only opportunity for the civilian to go to the front line – no one in the Armed forces of Ukraine would let Wassyl to the front line. And he wanted to be “on the top of the knife” – noticed Leonid Kanter.

“We cannot keep lying to ourselves” – said Wassyl Slipak and left for the front line. The films shows how Wassyl has returned to the war twice. In reality he has been on the front line three times. And on the third time he was killed. “When you find yourself in that environment, – Kanter told the audience, – you find yourself in a brotherhood. There are no half-ways there – only life or death. There are no deceits or something like that. And of course, you would want to come back to that”.

Except Wassyl, three other characters from the film have been killed. One of them – a “Family Man” – is a character both in Myth and The Ukrainians, he was the cyborg and has 5 children left. And those people are only some of the killed, whose names we do remember, whom we are talking and writing about, whom we are making films about. However, many more boys and girls have died. Unfortunately, we do not remember names of all of them, and I doubt that we will ever be able to memorize them all.

So what were their deaths for? We do not have aspirations to answer this question. However we do advise you to watch Myth – so that you could ask all the important questions yourself and find all the important answers. We also suggest watching The Ukrainians and other documentary and fiction films about the war in Ukraine. We suggest looking at the war through the lens of human – human beliefs, human aspirations, human lives.

Whether Wassyl’s death was in vain or not -this question is asked in the film, according to the director himself. “To be honest, the answer depends on each and every one of us, on you, and on me. If we live our lives at 100%, sincerely, honestly, if we do not allow anyone to cut down Ukrainian forests, if we do not throw cigarette butts under our feet, if we stop giving bribes, then, of course, this death will not be in vain. And vice versa. So, “fight, and you will win!” I am doing my best and I encourage you to do so. Please, let’s all be together in this!” – added Leonid.

Director underlined, that in any society there are no more than 20% of people, who care: “Revolution influenced it and now in Ukraine there are 10% of people, who care. It is a lot, really. But there are also those 90%, who are indifferent”. If you consider yourself to belong to the 10% of those, who care, it is very important to live like that. The team of Myth-creators are putting their effort in order to not stay aside. They are taking care about their own product – every detail, to the very smallest ones (this we know for sure from organizing the screening of Myth). They plan to create something new, even though details are still a secret:

There are plans. But I have a principle to follow: „A man has said – a man has done“. So I never say anything, unless I know for sure that I will do it. Or I will have to do, but I have no money for that yet. Work is already in progress, but there is no money yet – as always [smiling]. So, when I know, that there is no coming back, we will make an announcement. I think that it will happen in the next week or so, and everyobe will find out what we are doing and when will it be ready.

It is important, that the team continues to create. Ukrainian cinema is rising from the ashes, as we could have seen in the last couple years. This process astonishes with how rapid and passionate it is, and we play very important role in it. Product of Ukrainian cinema will exist only when there are consumers. So let’s watch movies, compliment and criticize, invite close and barely familiar people. And then we will witness emerging of more high-quality Ukrainian fims.

For UAportal – Marharyta Golobrodska

Photo: Roman Mykhalchuk, Mariia Shchur (Radio Free Europe)