Maryna Er Gorbach’s drama Klondike revolves around a Ukrainian couple on the cusp of parenthood whose lives are turned upside down by the rise of the Russia-backed separatist movement in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.
The pair are impacted further by the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over the region in July 2014, which leaves debris strewn over their property and further ratchets up tensions in the area.
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“MH17 was very a shocking event for Ukraine, but after this shock we thought it would be a really symbolic event, because it was not so easy to ignore, and that there would be an international judgment in the court for answers on who was responsible,” Er Gorbach said Saturday during a Contenders International panel for the film.
“But at the time, it was totally ignored. There was this mirage that it was a local war,” she continued. “In my mind it was a good story to start talking about what was happening in the context of world security and safety. We really live in the same world.”
Dutch judges finally ruled last month, more than eight years after the event, that a Russian-supplied missile fired by Ukrainian separatists caused the tragedy that killed 289 civilian passengers and crew.
Klondike world premiered in the World Cinema Dramatic section of the virtual edition of Sundance Film Festival in January, winning Er Gorbach the directing award, and went on to screen in the Berlinale’s Panorama section, where it won the ecumenical jury prize, just days before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
“Because Sundance was online, the cast and crew decided to meet in Kyiv to watch the film together,” Er Gorbach said. “It was a good decision because now everyone is everywhere. Half the crew is in the army, some are living abroad.
“In Berlin, we world premiered on 14th February, won a prize on the 22th, and just two days after everything exploded,” he added. “Everyone was asking what was going to happen. For me, because I had worked so much on the topic, it was clear: They were not going to stop.”
Check back Monday for the panel video.
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