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Freedom Heart Ukraine

Documentary on displaced Ukrainians planned

Sep 29, 2023 | Community, Featured

Signing the letter of intent. Left to Right: Oleksandr Pankieiev, Orysia Boychuk, Dr. Roman Petryshyn, Steven Brese. Photo: Marco Levytsky
NP-UN Western Bureau.

Representatives of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Alberta Provincial Council (UCC-APC), the Alberta Local and International Education Association (ALIEA), the Alberta Society for the Advancement of Ukrainian Studies (ASAUS), and Legacy Films, signed a letter of intent to produce a 70-minute documentary on Ukrainians in Alberta, displaced by Russia’s war against Ukraine, September 18 at the UCC-APC office in Edmonton.

The working title of the film is “Alberta Stands with Ukraine”. It delves into the evolving identities of Ukrainian newcomers and established Ukrainian Canadians in Alberta. At its core, the documentary examines how the modern realities of Ukrainian newcomers intersect with the ancestral traditions of Ukrainian Canadians, sparking both unity and tension within the community.

As Steven Brese, the principal of Legacy Films which will be producing the film explains, the objective is to find two to four families and follow them for several months. This would include a Ukrainian newcomer family and a Ukrainian Canadian family both of whom are somehow impacted by the war.

“We plan to employ a unique approach, prompting our subjects to consider consistent questions across eight months of filming where our two-person crew will visit these families each month. This method aims to reveal the gradual transformation and nuanced shifts in their perspectives, stories, and feelings as they come to terms with their new realities,” says Brese.

“Ultimately we hope that ‘Alberta Stands with Ukraine’ will foster a deeper understanding and bridge the gap between long-settled Ukrainian Canadians and recent immigrants. By ‘Understanding the other’ this will hopefully help create a richer, more united community. By watching the documentary, we hope to build empathy and understanding in viewers, and help to dissolve preconceived notions and stereotypes, creating a more inclusive society. By capturing the essence of changing identities and which traditions and practices are maintained, we hope to contribute to the global conversation on diaspora communities and the process of cultural preservation and adaptation,” he adds.

Currently about 42,00 new settlers have come to Alberta with 20,000 settled in Calgary and 14,000 in Edmonton along with approximately 10,000 in over 200 other locations of the province. The majority (but not all) are women, and many have their children with them.
Their experience of being uprooted by the war was unexpected, traumatic and, aside from the anxiety they have for their families remaining in Ukraine, has meant that within one year newcomers had to learn a new language, find a job, housing, send their children into Alberta schools and redefine their Ukrainian values and identity into being immigrant settlers in a foreign land.

As this sixth wave is the largest in the 130-year history of Ukrainian Canadians, the UCC-APC and its president Orysia Boychuk decided to document the human-interest side of this major historical event. The film will also include references to the fundraising and volunteer work of people who provided free clothing and furniture, English as an additional language, summer camps and social support from Ukrainian Canadian and general religious and community organizations.

There are three main phases of the film: pre-production, production and post-production and is expected to be completed by August 2024.

Once that is done there will be a screening at the Garneau Cinema in Edmonton for the world premiere and in Calgary at the Plaza Cinema for the Calgary Premiere. Producers also intend to enter the movie in film festivals around the world including: Sundance, Cannes, New York, Los Angeles, Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa, Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton and others.

UCC-APC has committed $15,000, while the Ukrainian Resource and Development Centre (URDC) and ASAUS each committed $10,000 and ALIEA committed $5,000 towards startup funds of $40,000 for the production of the documentary.

Financing will take place in three stages. An initial payment of $15,000 to commence the project, a second payment of $15,000 upon completion of 50% of filming, and a final payment of $10,000 upon completion of all production. All parties agree to actively pursue funding, utilize the resources produced by the Production Company to assist in the submission of grants and seek other forms of funding.

The team includes URDC Founder Roman Petryshyn – Advisor; Oleksandr Pankieiev, Research coordinator at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) – Advisor; Olena Honcharova, Canadian Bureau Chief for The Kyiv Independent- Assistant Director; and Gerardo Ramos – Director of Photography.

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