Category Archives: video

‘The English Surgeon’ wins HotDocs!

From the Globe & Mail:

Toronto — A film about a British neurosurgeon’s heroic efforts to bring relief to tumour victims in Ukraine has won the $10,000 award for best international feature documentary at the 15th annual Hot Docs festival. The North American premiere of The English Surgeon, directed by Geoffrey Smith, was one of seven films honoured last night at a ceremony in the Isabel Bader Theatre at the University of Toronto.

read on…

I was at the first screening of this movie and it was very good! Unfortunately the DVD is only available in Europe. Congratulations to director Geoffrey Smith for an excellent job!


Ukrainian on The Sopranos

This aired on the second last episode of The Sopranos, titled “The Blue Comet“:

Paulie Walnuts and Patsy Parisi heed Tony’s plan for a hit on Phil. Corky Caporale arranges the hit but it fails when the “cousins from Italy” hired to do the job kill Phil’s goomah (Yaryna) and her father, mistaking him for Phil. When Corky is told of the hit on the phone, while he’s in an adult video store, he thinks little of the fact that the murdered man spoke Ukrainian, simply responding “Whatever,” and he calls Patsy Parisi to tell him that the job is done and wonders about Phil speaking Ukrainian. Patsy puts it off and just transmits “It’s done.”

Yaryna (played by Matilda Downey who is Polish-American) and her Father were the first people on The Sopranos who actually spoke Ukrainian. She appeared in the second last episode and the last.

Another actress Oksana Lada (who also appeared in CSI Miami & 30 Rock under stage name Oksana Babiy) played Irina Peltsin from Kazahkstan, Svetlana’s cousin and Tony’s love interest at one point. She is actually from Ivano-Frankivsk oblast in Ukraine who studied Economics before emigrating to the US and started modelling and acting.

It’s interesting why producer David Chase chose to use Ukrainian in the show, his show is full of symbolism and political observances. While in the same episode he references the decline of the American Century to the Asian Century, is he also commenting on the rise of Orange Ukraine?


‘The English Surgeon’ to air in Toronto next week at Hot Docs

The Hot Docs 2008 film festival is fast approaching and runs in Toronto from April 17th to 27th.  One of the most talked about documentaries is The English Surgeon, 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. Directed by Geoffrey Smith, the film candidly addresses issues that affect us all.

Here’s the trailer:

Screenings and tickets details:
2008 Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival

First screening:
April 21st at 9.30pm – Bloor Cinema

Second screening:
April 23rd at 4.00pm – Isabel Bader Theatre

Tickets are also available for purchase at the Documentary Box Office:
87 Avenue Road, Hazelton Lanes (Upper Level)
Phone: (416) 637-5150

or at


Three police officers jailed for Gongadze’s murder

Some much needed closure arrived over the weekend for the family of Heorhiy Gongadze (May 21, 1969 – Sept 16 2000), a reporter and founder of Ukrayinska Pravda who was brutally murdered for being a critic of the Kuchma regime’s incompetency and corrupt administration.  His decapitated and acid-laced body was found in the Taraschanskyi Raion of the Kyiv Oblast two months after he was reported missing.

His murder prompted many protests in Ukraine, as many high-profiled crimes against journalists went unresolved during the course of the Kuchma administration.  There was much evidence to implicate Kuchma in the murder, including over 700 hours of recorded conversations between himself and Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko, but unfortunately no conviction was made due to corruption, hampering and obstruction.  It became a hot issue in Ukrainian politics, and a catalyst for the Orange Revolution

On March 1, 2005 President Yushchenko announced that his killers were apprehended and three years later on March 15 Mykola Protasov,  Valeriy Kostenko and Oleksandr Popovich, senior police officers working in the Interior Ministry’s Criminal Investigations directorate (CID) were sentenced to prison for 15, 13 and 13 years respectively.  Kravchenko, who received orders in the recorded conversations by Kuchma to “take care” of Gongadze was found dead in his apartment near Kyiv on March 4, 2005 after being called as a witness to the murder case.  An apparent suicide, some news reports suggested that suffering two gunshot wounds to the head in the manner he received would indicate foul play.  It is believed that Kravchenko gave the killing orders to Police General Oleksiy Pukach to assemble with a group of high-class detectives he controls “without any morals, and ready to do anything”.  Pukach remains at large and an international warrant is out for his arrest.  It is believed he has fled Ukraine and was last spotted in Israel.


Harvest of Despair (Soviet Engineered Famine in the Ukraine) 1933

For the first time in history the award-winning documentary Harvest of Despair brought the 1932-33 terror famine in Ukraine into the awareness of the world. Perpetrated by Stalin’s Soviet government which sought to destroy Ukrainians as a nation, the famine is one of the most terrible crimes of the 20th century. It claimed 10 million lives in Ukraine.

Translated into Ukrainian, French, and Spanish, Harvest of Despair was shown in Canada on CBC, in the US on PBS, in England on the BBC as well as in Australia, Argentina and Sweden and on other TV networks. Before the 1991 independence referendum in Ukraine Harvest of Despair was telecast on the Ukrainian national television network. The film was the essential catalyst in finally breaking down the USSR denial that a man-made famine had occurred in Ukraine in 1932-33.

This documentary film established the existence and the extent of this genocidal crime against humanity which had been so skillfully concealed by the Soviet Union that half a century later the western world remained a victim of Soviet propaganda.

A one hour documentary, Harvest of Despair, has been widely screened around the world, and is regularly shown in schools, colleges and universities. It has provided an insight into the Soviet totalitarian system and a better understanding of the reasons for the struggle of Ukraine for independence.

Support the Harvest of Despair, it is available from its producers the Ukrainian Canadian Research & Documentation Centre (UCRDC) in Toronto, as well as on Amazon.

A really great documentary, definitely a staple of Holodomor research.  It ran into a lot of problems being shown in the US as many PBS affiliates would not air it giving flimsy excuses time and time again, but finally caved into public pressure after they could no longer defend their unscrupulous decision.

This video was the first popularized evidence of the man-made famine, a voice to finally rise against the Soviet propoganda and Western venality. It was not brought about by drought, or crop activitists, it was brought in for the task from Russia, physically removed virtually all of the food from the region. The famine was the realization of Soviet Foreign Minister Maksim Litvinov’s dictum, “Food is a weapon.” It was also the precursor of starvation politics in Afghanistan and Ethiopia.

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