The History of Cinema in Ukraine

Ukraine has had a great influence on the history of cinema. Moreover, the culture of Ukraine is constantly greatly influenced by the films it produces.

To get a better image about how the cinema has evolved in Ukraine, here are some facts and figures on the cinema status in Ukraine, starting as early as the 1980s.

In the 1980s, Soviet Ukraine started producing approx. 30 to 45 feature-length films, less than 20 animation films and a few hundred documentary and educational films annually. By the 1990s, film production in Ukraine has declines almost by half with only a handful of feature films being produced.

Currently, there are five state owned and financed studios operating in Ukraine: the Oleksander Dovzhenko Film Studio (Kyiv), the Odesa Film Studio, the National Cinemateque (formerly Ukrnaukfilm), Ukrkinokhronika (Documentary), Ukranimafilm (Animation), and the joint Ukrainian-Russian venture Yaltynska-Kinostudia in Crimea.


Odessa Film Studio

In 1992 the Dovzhenko Film Studio and the Odessa Film Studio produced 20 and 23 feature-length films, respectively. By 1998 the number of released productions had shrunk to 1 and 0, respectively.

Five years later, according to an interview published in a local newspaper, the former director of Dovzhenko Film Studio stated that the studio was in a desperate need of production equipment. However, in a nation-wide questionnaire on contemporary cinema in Ukraine, from a total of 1,200 respondents,  two-thirds thought the state should continue to finance the national film production sector of the industry. Furthermore, 58% believed that the state should not only finance but run industry as well. Therefore, the people considered that the film industry should continue to evolve, even though the state allocated such small budgets. In 2000, the state budget for cinematic production increased to 20 million hrv.

Nowadays, the urban privately-owned movie theaters offer ticket prices for 20 to 50 hrv, but unfortunately the average citizen can’t afford such rates. State-run theaters are however, more affordable but operate haphazardly.

Leaving history aside, if you find yourself interested in finding more about the cinematic history of Ukraine, you should visit one of the places that sums up the film industry the best: The Museum of Cinema, located in Odessa.

The Museum of Cinema is located in the Odessa film studio in a mansion. It displays more than 10,000 works and is a testament of the cinematic activity in Odessa. The oldest works are books, newspapers and magazines from 1900. It also displays prizes and rewards to the studio films, personal paraphernalia of the first people of the Odessa studio and some actors, cinematographic equipment, sketches of sceneries and lot’s of other objects.

Museum of Cinema, Odessa, Ukraine

Furthermore, Ukraine holds some of the biggest film festivals in Europe. One of the best known is Odessa International Film Festival (OIFF), which has the biggest audiences in CIS countries and Eastern Europe. The main festival prize is ‘The Golden Duke’. The central focus of OIFF is films of high artistic merit.

The Golden Duke Prize

Another well-known festival is an International Film Festival “Molodist”. Its main objective is to promote young and professional cinema. The world ‘molodist’ means ‘youth’. There are three main sections: the first feature film, student competition and the first short film. The main festival prize is “The Scythian Deer”.  Other popular festivals include Lviv International Short Film Festival “Wiz-Art”, DOCUDAYS UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, International Animated Film Festival “Krok”, New Vision International Short Film Festival, International Huma Rights Film Festival “Steps”, Irpen Film Festival and Kyiv International Short Film Festival.

The Scythian Deer Prize

One of the most notable awards Ukraine has won across time is Palme d’Or for “The Cross” film, directed by Maryna Vroda, in the short film category in 2011. Same prize within the same category has been won by the 2005 film “Podorozhni”, directed by Ihor Strembitskyi. In 2003, “Ishov tramvai N°9” (director: Stepan Koval) won Jury Prize Silver Bear at Berlinale. “Tyr” (directed by Taras Tomenko) won Panorame Award of the BYFA at Berlinale in 2001 and “Lebedyne Ozero-Zona” (director: Yuriy Illienko) took home two prizes, one being the FIPRESCI Prize and the other one- the Award of the Youth at Cannes Film Festival 1990.

A more recent Ukrainian film that had a huge success has been directed by Ihor Podolchak and carries the title “Las Meninas”. Its title alludes to the well-known painting by Diego Velázquez. It was the first Ukrainian film to participate in the Tiger Awards Competition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film has participated in 27 international film festivals and in 2011 it was included in Top 15 Best Ukrainian films of the 20 years Independence period.

Las Meninas

As far as the internet in concerned, the Ukrainian film with the best IMBD rating is “The Guide”, produced in 2014, directed by Oles Sanin. It has won the Odessa International Film Festival Jury Prize for Cinematography in the same year and Stanislav Boklan won the Best Actor prize for his role.

Therefore, Ukraine has been struggling for many years to obtain funds in order to be able to supply the state-owned studios with the required equipment and to produce worldwide recognized movies. However, as years passed, they succeeded in making themselves recognized and winning prizes all over the world. Ukraine film industry has produced some very admired works of art, showing that little can indeed, do much.