Child miners in Pit Number 8 documentary. Yura Sykanov, now 19, is on the right.
After scooping 10 awards at international festivals, a Ukrainian-Estonian documentary on child labor in abandoned mines finally made it home to Ukraine.
It was scheduled to premiere at an international documentary festival on March 24. But instead, in a bizarre and unprecedented turn of events, “Pit Number 8” was banned by its own Ukrainian producer.
“This film is deceitful and staged. It has nothing to do with documentaries and human rights issues,” said Interfilm production studio, the Ukrainian co-producers of the film, in a letter sent to Docudays Festival organizers, just an hour before the premiere was scheduled for screeing.
“Your festival would violate copyright if the film is shown at the festival,” the letter read.
The ban outraged festival organizers and heroes of the film that came to Kyiv for the premiere.
“We’re shocked,” said Yura Sykanov, a 19 year-old with a childish face, who was the central character in the documentary. He said the film took 1.5 years to make, and the Ukrainian producer, Olena Fetisova, was only taking part in the production at the early stages.
“How can she say that it was staged?” he asked.
The film is set around the Sykanov family, and shows the tragic demise of Ukraine’s coal mining in Donetsk region in the 1990-2000s, when the desperate residents of the town of Snezhnoe started digging for coal illegally and just about everywhere.
I had a choice – to steal or work, and decided to work.They dug under the basements of demolished buildings, in old dilapidated mines and even in their own back yards to get some coal and sell it to survive. Child labor was not uncommon then.
- Yura Sykanov, central character in the documentary