Olga Kurylenko, a Ukrainian actress who played in the James Bond movie “Quantum of Solace,” stars in “The Land of Oblivion,” parts of which were filmed near Chornobyl.
The French movie “The Land of Oblivion” opened in Kyiv theaters on April 26, the date that marked the 26th anniversary of the worst nuclear explosion in history.
Reflecting on the legacy of Chornobyl, it has made a successful festival circuit around the world, but in Ukraine the movie may struggle to connect with the actual victims of the tragedy.
French-Israeli director Michale Boganim shot the film about a woman coming to terms with losing her husband to radiation on their wedding day. Aptly captured feelings of pain, anger and inability to move on seem to have a universal appeal, but it is the details that will estrange the audience wearing Ukrainian glasses.
From the beginning, things go awry. Women are washing clothes in the Pripyat River despite the fact that it is 1986 and the washing machine has already been invented. Vodka is better established than some of the characters in the first 30 minutes, with people, including a bride, taking solace in it before the plant deals a nuclear blow. And the subject of a foreign husband for a pretty, yet destitute Ukrainian woman is offered as one of the solutions to a new life.
The film “skirted along the edges of stereotypes,” said Rachel Rosen, the director of programming at San Francisco International Film Festival. “The Land of Oblivion” will be competing against 10 other works for New Director’s Prize during the festival’s run at the end of April. “But I am fairly forgiving; it is not a major factor for me. The director’s sense of humanity and a gift of visual storytelling are far more important.”
Shot by a documentarian, the film has been traversing the festival screens for more than a year now. When it first aired in Ukraine a year ago, however, it did not receive a warm welcome from critics, nor won any festival awards. The head of international jury of Molodist Film Festival and Ukraine’s arguably most prolific writer Oksana Zabuzhko said the film was “bad and completely false.”
Audiences outside Ukraine, however, seem to think otherwise. “’The Land of Oblivion’ left me with a burning feeling of hatred to the Soviet regime, which I left behind having immigrated nine years before their obnoxious crime in 1986,” said Edward Dayen, the publisher of a Russian language newspaper in San Francisco.
The Land of Oblivion’ left me with a burning feeling of hatred to the Soviet regime, which I left behind having immigrated nine years before their obnoxious crime in 1986.
- Edward Dayen, the publisher of a Russian language newspaper in San Francisco