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Ukrainian orphans featured again this year at Hot Docs–Review of ‘High Five: A Suburban Adoption Saga’

May 1st, 2013 No comments

The former orphanage worker-turned documentary filmmaker debuted her second film about Ukrainian orphans last night at Hot Docs in Toronto, ‘High Five: A Suburban Adoption Saga”:

Julia Ivanova premiered her first film ‘Family Portrait in Black & White’ 2 years ago at HotDocs which featured a Ukrainian women who adopts almost 30 children, which more than half are black who grow up in Ukraine.

This year’s film showcases the trials and tribulations of a B.C. childless couple who try and adopt two Ukrainian sisters from a orphanage in Horodnia (northern Ukraine), 7-year old Alyona and 8-year old Snezhana. The couple later learns the sisters have three siblings and try and adopt them all – 15-year-old Sergei, 16-year-old Yuliya, and six-year-old Sasha.

The film shows the challenges with adopting children across the age spectrum, with the eldest having the most trouble fitting in. Yuliya used to be the children’s protector, but finds that’s no longer her role, and struggles for independence from her new parents as she reaches adulthood. There is a language barrier at the beginning of the family’s relationship, but the parents did not show any signs of learning any of the children’s language in the movie. The parents face their own struggles connecting with the children at times, and the financial difficulties with adopting all of them (the movie claims around $200,000) and how it has drained their savings. The father is a nurse who eventually works up in the arctic a month at a time for additional income, and the mother is on disability from a car accident (which is the reason they did not try to have their own children).

The children also have to deal with the physical and emotional battle scars of their past – we are told some have learning disabilities (which are not thoroughly addressed in the film), Sergei suffers from lack of a growth hormone that leaves him only 4’6” tall entering adulthood, and at least one girl appears to have some form of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. The younger children appear to adapt better than their own older siblings, who want to return to Ukraine to visit their old friends.

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The movie itself provides a good glimpse into the life of an adopted family and the struggles of immigrating, fitting and growing up. The movie is solely focused on the family and offers little into any politics (there was a state-wide adoption ban from the government) and life outside the family (there is little footage of the children’s past lives in the orphanage). Julia even interjects herself into the documentary, especially during conflicts, when the children shut themselves off from communication. She is able to interview them in their native Russian to hear their true feelings no whatever matter is pressing them. Filming the family in their home most of the time can certainly be challenging, as the camera cannot be candid in their small house – sometimes the conversations that the family have feel a little forced, most likely to save face in front of the camera. Nonetheless the true feelings do come out and are captured in the film, making it worthwhile to see.

High Five: A Suburban Adoption Saga airs again as part of Hot Docs:

Today, May 1st at 4:00 PM at the Isabel Bader Theatre (at the University of Toronto campus near the ROM)

Saturday, May 4th at  4:00 PM at The Regent

The CBC has also written up an additional preview on the movie

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PBS Frontline re-airing ‘Sex Slaves’ tomorrow

February 14th, 2011 No comments

image Tomorrow night at 9PM EST (Tuesday February 14th) PBS will air another showing of its Frontline special on ‘Sex Slaves’ from 2006 that featured young girls taken from Ukraine and funneled through Europe as sex trade workers. We’ve covered PBS re-airing this broadcast before, and if you aren’t able to catch it it is also available on YouTube:

 

and Google Video:

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Watch ‘the English Surgeon’ online

September 13th, 2009 No comments
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TV show reveals Ukrainian internment

January 25th, 2009 2 comments

‘Ancestors in the Attic’ aired tonight on Global an episode about a man trying to look up his Ukrainian roots at the WWI internment camp in Spirit Lake, Quebec:

Growing up as a Ukranian-Canadian, Jerry Bayrak always faced prejudice. But he also heard whispers that his family dealt with even worse when they first arrived in Canada. No one would ever tell him anything about those early days. All Jerry’s Mom would reveal was that she grew up in a small town called Spirit Lake, near Montreal. But it wasn’t until Jerry began digging that he discovered that Spirit Lake was actually a World War I internment camp. Now, with the help of Ancestors in the Attic, Jerry begins a dramatic search to discover the truth about Spirit Lake and about one of the darkest chapters in Canadian history.

The issue of Ukrainian internment is one that still remains a secret in Canadian history.   From Wikipedia:

The Ukrainian Canadian internment was part of the confinement of “enemy aliens” in Canada during and for 2 years after the end of World War I, lasting from 1914 to 1920. About 5,000 Ukrainian men of Austro-Hungarian citizenship were kept in twenty-four internment camps and related work sites, also known, at the time, as concentration camps. Another 80,000 were registered as “enemy aliens” and obliged to regularly report to the police. Those interned had whatever little wealth they owned confiscated.

There also exists other witness accounts, even CBC radio covered Spirit Lake.  In addition there were other camps, including Fort Henry and Kapuskasing in Ontario.

Last year, the government announced it will provide a grant of $10 million to the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko to establish an endowment fund to support initiatives related to the First World War internment experience that predominantly affected the Ukrainian and other East European ethnic communities in Canada.

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Movie review: The English Surgeon

October 9th, 2008 2 comments

Earlier this Spring I was lucky enough to catch this great documentary called The English Surgeon at HotDocs, an intimate portrait of a brain surgeon working in an ill-equipped Ukrainian hospital and dealing with the moral and ethical issues that often exist between doctor and patient relationships.

It was an amazing movie to see, and it ended up winning the HotDocs festival.  When the movie was released on DVD it was only available in England but I was lucky enough to have some friends bring it over and it has been a pleasure to watch again.  Here is a trailer of the movie and some screenshots (click on them for a larger image):


Edit: I’m happy to report that now the DVD is available to all on their official site and finally comes in NTSC format which can be played on North American DVD players.  It’s about 16 pounds to purchase, but with the pound coming down recently now is a great to come to buy it!

Edit #2: While the entire movie can now be found on YouTube, it would be great to support the author and buy the DVD.

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