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Five film festivals are held in the city of Kyiv annually. One of them, called Vidkryta Nich. Doobl 3 (“Open Night. Take 3”; we’ll call it for convenience: “Night Film Festival”) is probably the most unusual one. It takes place early in June (so far there have been three of them), lasts one night, from sunset to sunup. The venue is one of the outdoor cafes in the Andriyivsky Uzviz, a steep street, connecting two parts of town, known as the artistic centre of Kyiv with many painters’ studios and art galleries situated there.
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Bohdan Stupka, head of the jury, ready to hand the awards.
There, one can encounter, almost any time of the day or night in any season, a number of colourful characters, from long-haired “new hippies” wearing jeans to “new Ukrainians” wearing crew cuts, expensive clothes and thick gold chains on their necks. Here and there individual singers and bands perform their own or borrowed music. From the cafe, which sits on top of a hill, where the Night Film Festival takes place, opens a gorgeous panorama of the left bank of the Dnipro River.
On the first Saturday of June, right after the sun went down, the Festival’s opening ceremony began, not at all pompous. The Festival is an excellent reminder to the people of Kyiv that in spite of all the economic difficulties the country is going through, movie making has not come to a complete standstill and movies are still being made at the large (one of the largest in Europe) Dovzhenko Film Studio in Kyiv and other film studios in Ukraine.
The Night Film Festival has been launched by Mykhaylo Illenko, a prominent Ukrainian movie director. I talked to him after he returned from the International Moscow Film Festival where he had shown one of his recent films, Foochow. He said: “ Our television and movie houses now show mostly US, Latin American films, and films made in the Soviet times. These films create their own myths, they propagate their own values. Unfortunately, there are very few Ukrainian films that could propagate our values, create our own myths. Cinema is concerned with creating new worlds, it is seeking to establish truths, create new myths without which no vibrant culture can live. The films shown at the Night Film Festival are of the kind that provoke reflection, that present new ideas, open new ways, create new myths.”
The jury was headed by Bohdan Stupka, one of the leading actors of Ukraine today who in his opening address wished the Night Film Festival to continue to be one of the most exciting film events in Ukraine today. Among the members of the jury was Andriy Kurkov (also, a member of the European Film Academy), whose new screenplay A Clockwork Lion about Kyiv of 1939 has been chosen for a movie that is planned to be made in cooperation with France. In the early hours of the 6th of June, the jury retired to an adjacent art gallery for deliberations and soon brought their verdict. 34 video and celluloid films had been shown and 54 screenplays had been presented to be read by a numerous jury (Bohdan Stupka quipped saying that the Night Film Festival was the shortest of all known film festivals, yet the list of people on its jury was the longest).
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Press-conference at a yacht.
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Mykhaylo Illenko, film director, and Vitaliy and Dmytro Kapranovs, heads of the Zeleny Pes (“Green Dog”) Agency.
The films shown could be divided into two categories: documentary dealing with social and political issues, and feature films, mostly of avant-garde kind, probing into the eternal issues of love, God, human relations and sense of existence. Also, parts of the films by I. Mykolaychuk, Yu. Illenko, S. Paradjanov and A. Voytetsky, made long ago, were shown. There was a sort of a contest held for the best still from the movies shown. About five hundred people were present at the Festival. They enjoyed not only the films but drinks and food served at the cafe.
The Grand Prix went to the film Pirnayu! (“I Plunge!”) directed by Volodymyr Doshchuk whose motion picture could belong to both categories. The Night Film Festival is organized with the help of the branch of the Kodak Company in Kyiv and Kodak’s biggest prize is $1,500 worth of Kodak film.
The Ministry of Culture of Ukraine regularly gives its own money prizes to the winners, using for that the Ukrainian president’s fund for encouragement of young artists, film directors, etc. The Zeleny Pes (“Green Dog”) Agency run by brothers Kapranov had also provided active help in organizing the Festival.
Among the professional moviemakers the prizes were awarded to Hanna Yarovenko for the film Metropolitan and to Serhiy Natalushko for his film Lyudy Dobri (“Kind People”). The top prize in the Best Actor nomination was given to Oleksiy Horbunov. Among the films made by the students the top prize was given to Olena Yuzik for her film The Fear of Pas de Deux. In the “parallel” film category the first prize was won by Oksana Chepelyk for her film Leader’s Favourite Toys. In the Best Music nomination, the top prize went to Volodymyr Huba for the music written for the film Solo. The Best ScreenPlay prize was awarded to Natalya Kononchuk for her Eve. The screenplay has a chance to be made into a movie and to be published in anthology. Bohdan Zholdak, a writer and member of the jury who is known for his shocking statements, once said that “all the film directors are writers who have buried their writing talents.” He thinks that thanks to the Night Film Festival “a new literary school has come into being.” Mykhaylo Illenko once called the screenplays “optical prose” and this definition has stuck. The Kyiv Main Culture Board gave a special prize to brothers Alyoshechkin for their film Nekropoltsi 2 and promised some financial support for future Night Film Festivals. All the prizewinners received additional prizes: beautifully made clapper boards complete with small mirrors. No film making can do without the clapper board yet and this symbolic prize, in the words of Mr Illenko, “should encourage master film directors and budding film directors to go ahead with making films, dramatic, comic, ironic, serious, creating new myths.” 83_4.jpg (41709 bytes)
Film director Volodymyr Doshchyk, the winner of Grand Prix  for his film Pirnayu! ("I plunge!")
83_3.jpg (90431 bytes) One of the “parallel” films, Oksana Chepelyk’s Leader’s Favourite Toys which treats the problem of mass illusions of the 20th century and of everyone’s responsibility, has already received another prize, this time at the 50th International Festival of Short Films in Montecatini, Italy for the film’s intellectual insights.
The Night Film Festival has also shown that a lot is to be done in Ukraine to develop the institution of producers, and that also something must be done to encourage people to go to the movies. Since 1991, the average number of visits has dropped from 14 a year to 0.17 in 1998. The National Radio and TV Company have agreed to show some of the films presented at the Festival on their channels. At least in this way a wide audience of TV viewers will get a chance to see some of new Ukrainian films.
Mykhaylo Illenko, the art director of the Festival, already has plans and new ideas for the next Night Film Festival to be held in the year 2000.

By Heorhiy-Hryhoriy Pylypenko
Photos from the archives of Mykhaylo Illenko

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