Benefit Screenings Planned in Tokyo to Support Ukrainian Filmmakers – The Srdtf News

Benefit Screenings Planned in Tokyo to Support Ukrainian Filmmakers – The Hollywood Reporter

A pair of films by esteemed Ukrainian director Valentyn Vasyanovych will be getting theatrical screenings in Japan later this month as part of a benefit effort launched by Tokyo film industry insiders to support Ukraine.

Vasyanovych’s features Atlantis (2018) and Reflection (2021) — both of which premiered to critical acclaim at the Venice Film Festival and tell stories that engage directly with Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine — will be screened in Tokyo’s Shibuya district over several nights at the end of March. All of the profit from the screenings will go to the Ukrainian producers of the films and organizations that support Ukrainian filmmakers. The films will be subtitled in both Japanese and English (ticketing details below).

Yoshi Yatabe, the former programing director of the Tokyo International Film Festival, initiated the project shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Yatabe has counted Vasyanovych as a personal friend ever since the director traveled to Japan for a screening of Atlantis at the 2019 Tokyo International Film Festival, where it won the special jury prize. In the days since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Yatabe has been recruiting industry friends to help him stage the benefit screenings.

Vasyanovych’s film Atlantis, which won best film in Venice’s horizons section in 2018, is set in an imagined 2025 after patriotic forces in eastern Ukraine have finally brought the long war with Russia to a successful end. But despite the successful ending for Ukraine, all is not well in this anguished, time-shifting story, told through the eyes of a soldier suffering from PTSD who has lost his family, home and the very meaning of life in the war. Involving suicide, the processing of mass graves and ecological devastation, the film is a potent meditation on the enduring trauma of war even in imagined victory, as well as a “dark yet humanly luminous story,” as THR‘s critic put it.

Reflection was one of the clear critical favorite’s of last year’s Venice festival. With staggering visual restraint and artistry, Vasyanovych uses a sequence of fixed mid-range shots to tell a wrenching story about a cosmopolitan young doctor (Roman Lutskiy) who volunteers to care for the wounded near the battle zone in Ukraine’s Donbas region, only to get captured almost immediately by Russian-speaking soldiers who are pretending to be natives but are really Russian mercenaries shipped in to aid the invasion. The doctor undergoes a sequence of horrors — imprisonment, torture, forced cooperation — before abruptly winning his freedom and beginning a vertiginous process of recovery with his young daughter back in Kiev. THR‘s critic described the film as offering “a powerful panoramic view of the conflict, one full of ravaging images of horror but also moments of grace, beauty and enduring love.”

In recent correspondence with The Srdtf News, Vasyanovych called for ban on Russian participation in film industry events around the world until Putin calls back his deadly and destructive war on Ukraine. “The fact is that at all times Russia has used cultural and artistic achievements as a cover for its aggressive actions,” Vasyanovych wrote. “It is necessary to lower the iron cultural curtain around Russia. Stop any cultural collaborations with representatives of a terrorist country that threatens to destroy the whole world.”

The Tokyo International Film Festival is among the local Japanese film industry companies and organizations throwing its weight behind the benefit screenings. The organization said it is exploring what further measures to take in response to the war at its next festival in October.

“As an organization that aims to contribute to the promotion of global friendship and culture through cinema, the Tokyo International Film Festival feels the hardships of those affected by the crisis as our own and is committed to supporting the films and art produced by them, regardless of national borders,” the festival said in a statement. “For these reasons, we strongly call for a peaceful resolution to this crisis as early as possible.”

Screenings for the Ukrainian films will be held on four consecutive nights from March 29-31. Tickets can be purchased at the Motion Gallery crowdfunding site (English follows Japanese).

Other film organizations supporting the effort include New Europe Film Sales, Best Friend Forever, Euro Space, Euro Live, Mermaid Film Co. and Free Stone Productions Co.

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