Olena Yershova’s Retrospective at Columbia.
Exploring Today’s Ukraine through Film
Since its inception 14 years ago, the Ukrainian Film Club of Columbia University has primarily focused on the work of directors and actors. Now , for the first time, we would like to take a closer look at producers, the profession that is relatively new and in the process of defining itself in Ukraine’s contemporary film industry. After all, the old Soviet cinema from whose shadow the post-Soviet Ukrainian film is slowly emerging did not have film producers in the customary sense. Choosing from a dozen possible candidates this semester we showcase Olena Yershova. She comes from a celebrated filmmaking family; her father Kostiantyn Yershov wrote and directed eight films and is primarily celebrated for his screen adaptation of Mykola Hohol’s (Nikolai Gogol) story Viy, arguably the only horror film allowed to be made in the Soviet Union (1967).
Olena Yershova is a successful film producer in her own right with an impressive portfolio of more than ten feature films which garnered over a hundred awards worldwide. Her filmography includes My Joy (main competition at Cannes 2010), Frost (Directors’ Fortnight - Cannes 2017), Falling (Prix Du Public Jeanne Moreau at Premiers Plans, France, 2018), Gogita’s New Life (main competition at IDFA 2016), Motherland (Venice Critics’ Week 2015, Best Script and UNESCO Award nomination at the Asian Pacific Screen Awards 2015) and Blind Dates (Toronto IFF, Tokyo IFF, Palm Springs IFF, Berlinale - Forum, 2014). She has successfully worked not only with Ukrainian, but also, with Georgian and Turkish directors.
The forthcoming retrospective will showcase four feature films produced by Olena Yershova in cooperation with four different directors, three of them representing the new generation of Ukrainian filmmakers. Each film brings into focus an important aspect of the current Ukrainian reality.
Frost is an unheroic road story of discovery when a selfless Lithuanian couple drive a truck loaded with humanitarian aid for Ukrainians fighting off Russian aggression in the Donbas. They quickly find themselves in the middle of a minefield that is today’s Ukraine, where there is no telling who is friend and who is a foe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoFZC4T5sOw
Frost, director Sharunas Bartas of Lithuania, 2017