“Highlighting the peculiarities of the film characters“
The Ukrainian director Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk, winner of the European Film Academy’s 2022 European Discovery of the Year Award, is the author of several short films. His most recent short documentary, Liturgy of Anti-Tank Obstacles (2022), was screened at prestigious festivals such as IDFA, Toronto, and Sundance. His feature-length debut, Pamfir (2022), premiered last year at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight.
“I believe that during the last 30 years of Ukrainian independence, we acquired the aspirations of previous generations: we want to separate ourselves from imperial Soviet influence. We aspire to join the large democratic community of the EU. Since 2014, this desire to be separated as much as possible from any Russian presence is becoming more and more obvious.”
In 2013, Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk graduated from Kyiv National Karpenko-Karyy University of Theatre, Cinema and Television. During his studies at the university, he made several short films, which were participating and received awards at different international festivals. Dmytro is a participant of the Berlinale Talents, Locarno Film Academy, he is the founder of the script platform Terrarium.
Dmytro´s first student film, Adolescence (2008), took the Arseniy and Andrey Tarkovsky International prize. His Bachelor thesis film, The Beard (2012), was part of short films almanac UKRAINE, GOODBYE!, and was included in the “Ukrainian New Wave” best short films of Ukraine collection in 2012.
In 2013 Dmytro completed documentary film Krasna Malanka, that was also his graduation film. The film followed those who were preparing the Malanka carnival. “Malanka is a traditional Ukrainian holiday. They also call it carnival or bacchanalia. It’s an ancient holiday that goes deep into the carnival culture described by Rabelais. Each participant tries on a special mask, a different social role. In some villages Malanka is either one of the carnival characters, or the carnival itself. It enters every house in a village. People perform a scene or sing carols. Preparation takes a lot of time. Everyone picks a costume according to his or her projection. This is where the whole thing becomes interesting for me, because everyone picks a costume which reflects their vision of themselves, and this choice is deliberate. Malanka is traditionally associated with death, but after death comes resurrection. The cult itself is based not only on pagan but also on Christian patterns. But what interests me the most is this release of energy, both collective and individual.” said Dmytro. This fascination of Malanka carnival was also one of the inspirations for the story of Dmytro´s feature length debut Pamfir (2022).
Dmytro was first noticed internationally with his short film Weighlifter (2018), a EFA contender, winner of the Best Short Film Award in Angers. The film which is a story about a professional weightlifter Petro, who is preparing for an important competition, also won the Short Grand Prix of Warsaw Film Festival and several other prestigious awards.
“Pamfir is a father who wishes the best to his sibling and does everything possible and impossible to achieve that. He actually sacrifices himself and his beliefs to make his son live a better life. The more we reflect on who we are and why we are on this path of war, the more we will realize that the basics of this fight for freedom were laid not over the last 10 or 30 years, but over centuries. It seems to me that Pamfir is a typical Ukrainian who fights for his future having had a difficult past. Ukraine is his absolute identification. His appearance is actually a modernized look of a Zaporozhian Cossack.”
Dmytro was a part of the Cinéfondation residency with his feature-length debut Pamfir. Except Cannes’ Cinéfondation Pamfir, was also part of TorinoFilmLab and MIDPOINT. Dmytro came back with the completed Pamfir to Cannes. Pamfir (2022), which tells the story of a Transcarpathian resident who breaks the law to help his family, premiered last year at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. After Cannes premiere Pamfir was a part of various film festivals e.g. Cairo International Film Festival, Torino Film Festival, IFFR or Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Dmytro is also a winner of the European Film Academy’s 2022 European Discovery of the Year Award.
“With the war raging in Ukraine, I can only-make plans for 3-5 days ahead. Things can change in a second: an explosion might happen just nearby, even in a place that seems secure. I want to be with my country. Since the 24th February, I left Ukraine for a few days only to finish the post-production of Pamfir. It is important for me to be here now. I understand that a film director’s work is not as powerful as, for example, the know-how in tactical battle. But still, I think that if all Ukrainian artists killed by the Soviet regime in the 20th century had survived, they would have set a new vector for our identity. This is why I think it is important to document what is happening right now. And I’m doing it. I don’t know what will happen next. I have faith in our victory. For my part, I do everything I can to help my country.”
For now, like many other Ukrainian filmmakers, Dmytro has been devoting his time to capturing the conflict, currently developing multiple documentaries, including a collaboration with The New Yorker. “Our economic situation won’t provide us with many opportunities for making fiction films, at least not anytime soon. But we need to figure out how to make them,” he says. His latest short documentary film Liturgy of Anti-Tank Obstacles (2022) shows sculptors fabricate anti-tank obstacles in their art workshops. The film was screened at various festivals as Sundance, IDFA, Toronto Film Festival and many others.
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