Singapore’s film community stands up for Ukraine this month, opening this year’s European Film Festival (EUFF) with award-winning Ukrainian film, Zaza Buadze’s war drama "Mother of Apostles" ("Maty Apostoliv"), on 12 May. This year’s EUFF runs to 26 May.
"Mother of Apostles" stars Natalia Polovynka as Sofia, whose peaceful life is disrupted when her pilot son’s humanitarian plane is shot down over war-torn occupied territory. Receiving no satisfactory answers on his whereabouts, she sets off on a perilous journey to find him.
The second Ukrainian film on this year’s line up is Alena Demyanenko’s musical comedy, "Hutsulka Ksenya".
“EUFF has always resonated with audiences here because Europe and European films mirror and inspire, in their own unique ways, the multicultural, multi-ethnic, multilingual fabric of Singapore,” says Kenneth Tan, Singapore Film Society chairman, who has been instrumental in shaping the annual festival in Singapore.
“In Europe’s diversity, there is also beautiful unity, and this year, the presence and prominence of Ukraine’s acclaimed films in our EUFF line-up is a fitting, collective show of solidarity and support from Singapore and the entire pan-regional community,” Tan adds.
“Cinema reminds us of our humanity and demonstrates to us how our lives are interconnected,” says Iwona Piórko, European Union Ambassador to Singapore.
“We present this year’s EUFF in a difficult time. We stand in solidarity with Ukraine by opening the festival with... "Mother of Apostles". This movie, like several others on our programme, celebrates universal values of peace, freedom, and human dignity,” she says.
This year’s EUFF runs alongside efforts across the entertainment industry to support Ukrainian producers and distributors.
At Mip TV in Cannes in April, Ukraine participated in the official opening ceremony for the first time in the event’s 59-year history.
Victoria Yarmoshchuk, CEO of Film.UA Group and head of the Ukrainian Motion Picture Association, was included in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Ukraine was also part of the conference agenda in a “Stand with Ukrainian Media Industry” panel, and the Ukrainian National Stand was a magnet for media execs eager to show support for Ukrainian companies, including Starlight Media, 1+1 media and Film.UA Group.
The message was clear: “Cooperate with Ukraine, buy our content, develop new stories, co-produce with us, use our services, and support promotion”.
So far, Korea and Japan have been Film.UA’s most significant partners in Asia. Licensed shows include "The Sniffer", "There Will Be Humans" and period drama, "Love in Chains". In China, animated film "Stolen Princess" (Ruslan and Lyudmila) screened in theatres.
Hopes are for closer alliances.
“After the first day at Mip TV, we became more and more confident about our victory and the importance of the content industry’s contribution to this,” says Kateryna Udut, CEO of MRM, the organiser of Ukraine’s Mip TV 2022 activities.
“The international media community is providing us with huge support, and not only in words. Numerous meetings prove we’re on the same page... they are open to cooperating with Ukrainian ones, launching common projects, and using our services,” she adds.
Film.UA’s CEO Yarmoshchuk talks about “a decisive moment for our country and our industry”.
“We did what we could to save our personnel and equipment, and now we are asking for international assistance. Not for gifts or mercy, but for mutually beneficial cooperation that will restart Ukrainian content industry and allow us to build it back up, all while providing the international audiences with a wealth of fresh exciting content,” she says.
“We need to work closely together now. One of the most obvious options for such cooperation is co-development and co-creativity. We have thousands of incredible and highly professional showrunners, producers and writers who are still fully employed and ready to work. Ukraine is a country of rich diversity and creativity... [and] we have plenty of unbelievable stories,” says Inna Filipova, 1+1 media’s head of sales.
“The wave of support that we felt is not something temporary,” says Iryna Chernyak, Ukraine TV Channels’ director of content acquisition and monetisation. This was, she added, “the beginning of a serious and deep cooperation, as well as a more active integration of the Ukrainian media industry into the European and, in general, into the world one on an ongoing basis”.
Published in ContentAsia 4-16 May 2022 eNewsletter