Few movies have been made about the Holodomor, but in 2009 L.A. producers Bobby Leigh and Marta Tomkiw took up the task of bringing attention to the genocide just after its 75th anniversary with ‘Holodomor: The Movie’.
The movie starts rather quickly making its case for genocide with excerpts from Raphael Lemkin who coined the term as well as the United Nations definition. Throughout the film, it makes references back to these excerpts to show how people’s experiences are within the definitions of genocide.
Where the movie really shines are in its interviews with academia, experts and Holodomor survivors who share their tragic stories of surviving famine and losing their loved ones.
Many of the interviews take place in Ukraine, interviewing different Holodomor survivors who bare their souls to the camera. They speak of the horrors of starving in winter, where Soviet officials confiscate any and all food they can find. As they suffer, their family and friends are either deported to the frozen tundra of Siberia, executed, or die of hunger. Some speak of stories of watching their loved ones perish right in front of them, or arrested and sent away, never to return.
Experts are also interviewed from various research institutions, who not only share tragic stories from their records, but also can speak more of the Stalinist policies and documents that not only targeted ethnically Ukrainian independent farmers to confiscate their farmland, but replace entire Ukrainian villages with ethnic Russians who were more willing to participate in the new communal farms. The institutions also share statistics and demonstrate the calculated, deliberate actions of the USSR against the Ukrainian people. Academia are also interviewed, which provide very good background for time period.
Academia are also interviewed, most notably Rutgers’ Taras Hunczak, who speaks throughout the movie, providing much needed history and important context to a complex period. Hunczak provides a good synopsis to the events, which would otherwise be hard to understand when deciphering many of the memos, and plans from the Soviet era.
With few Holodomor movies in existence, this movie makes a great addition to help complete a small library on the topic. It’s interviews are a great resource for those who want to understand the events better or watch first-hand accounts from survivors.