Living in a war zone definitely makes you improvise, so maybe it is good training for an independent filmmaker. At least making a movie is something to do for single Ukrainian mother Ganna [Anna] Gladka’s family that maybe also holds therapeutic value. As the Russian invaders and their mercenaries shell her Donbass neighborhood, Gladka’s four children record and process the events through the lens of a camera. It is a process documented in turn by Iryna Tsilyk in The World is Blue as an Orange, which screens online for São Paulo film fans as part of the 44th Mostra festival, following its premiere at this year’s Sundance.
It has long been the dream of Gladka’s eldest daughter Myroslava Trofymchuk to be a professional cinematographer. Her mother admirably supports her, enrolling Trofymchuk in filmmaking camps (like the one where she met Tsilyk) and assisting with film school scholarship applications. One could say she also assumed most of the producer duties on 2014, Trofymchuk’s personal documentary, recording her family’s day-to-day life under wartime conditions.
Trofymchuk’s doc is about as indie as film gets, but she capitalizes on some rather unique opportunities that arise, like passing Ukrainian tank, whose crew agrees to serve as extras in one scene. Yet, the real drama comes when Trofymchuk’s siblings explain how the war has altered their lives and personalities.
Blue as an Orange is a terrible title [a poetic reference], but it is a valuable record of the impact of Russian aggression on average Ukrainians. For those of us who see a lot of documentaries, it also stands a sharp rebuke to Crystal Moselle’s The Wolfpack, in which the filmmaker recorded a film-making family that was entirely home-schooled and forbidden to leave their Lower Eastside apartment, by their controlling father, who is never seen on-camera (making it impossible for viewers to judge his state of mind).
Wolfpack, viewers will have a nagging suspicion there is something very dysfunctional going on, just outside Moselle’s frame. In contrast, Gladka’s children are very much actively engaged with the state of the world. She obviously wishes she could better protect them from the world, but she actively encourages their personal and professional development.
After watching Blue as an Orange, we want to see more from Trofymchuk, including the full cut of 2014 (which could conceivably be packaged with Tsilyk’s 75-minute film for a potential theatrical engagement). Those who pray, might offer one for Gladka’s family, because they are clearly good, talented people, but they are still living in harm’s way (thanks to Putin). Highly recommended, The Earth is Blue as an Orange screens online through Wednesday (11/4) as part of São Paulo’s 44th Mostra.