The film Pamfir just ended its run in Ukraine’s cinemas, and I managed to make it to the last showing.

Winner of dozens of awards, international as well as Ukrainian, Pamfir is the triumphant film debut of Dmytro Suholytky-Sobchuk. The film was presented in 25 countries worldwide and included in the programs of 40 festivals. Cineuropa, the European cinephile publication, included Pamfir in its top-25 films of 2022.

Set in Bukovyna, Pamfir tells the story of a family living in a border village with Romania, where most survive by engaging in smuggling. The main character, Leonid – nicknamed Pamfir – used to be a smuggler. The director depicts Pamfir’s life unembellished, as it is – rife with injustice, cruelty, and at the same time with love.

Filmed before Russia’s full-scale invasion, there are no references to the war. However, while watching it, one can’t help but think about what has been happening in Ukraine since Feb. 24 of last year. Perhaps this is related to the same sense of injustice.

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It is impossible to be indifferent to the film’s excellent acting, cinematography and scenery.

What comes through most poignantly, though, is how strong and indomitable the Ukrainian people are. Despite the war, we still continue to show our values and spirit, both within the country and abroad.

At the end of the film, the whole packed house was crying. During the credits, most of the audience held a moment of silence to remember the film’s set designer Volodymyr Chorny, who died in the battles near Bakhmut less than a week ago. It no doubt added even more emotion to an already emotional film.

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Foreigners often ask who exactly is fighting for Ukraine today? Are they really just ordinary people resisting the second strongest army in the world? People who were civilians just yesterday? I always answer: “These people were the best civilians, that’s why they went.”

Everything combined – the film’s aesthetics, its emotions, the homage to its fallen set designer at the end, and the general emotions stirred by the still-raging war – served to enhance the ordinary cinematic experience.

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Pamfir sparked and avalanche of thoughts:

Every day, we bury both famous artists and those who lived unknown to most. Those who uplifted our nation in other “fields” yesterday die on the battlefields today. Such people went to war. Those who care what language they speak, what flag to walk under, and what rights are theirs by virtue of being human.

I fear what will happen after the war. If so many wonderful people die, how can we raise our country?

But life goes on. Even when it seems that there is nothing left inside us except a sense of insane injustice. Even when we get bad news from the front, the loud children’s laughter can be heard outside the window. Politicians draw road maps for Ukraine. Directors shoot new films. Because life goes on. And all this is happening thanks to those who only yesterday were civilians, and today are defending our state from the enemy.

With these thoughts, I left the cinema in tears. But with the understanding that the future remains in the hands of the living. And it is in our power to preserve it – for the sake of those who no longer can.

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