A playlist compiled by Ari Kissiloff, Michael Richardson, Rachel Schaff, Patricia Zimmermann (Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival at Ithaca College)
On March 3, the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival (FLEFF) and the Department of History at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York mounted a hybrid Zoom and live in-person event entitled “The Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Analysis, Reflection, Discussion”
It featured Dr. Zenon Wasyliw, Professor of History at Ithaca College and a specialist on Soviet, Ukraine, and global history, and Daria Karpenko, an undergraduate from Ithaca College who is a Ukraine national. You can listen to the recording HERE.
Dr. Wasyliw compiled the list of historical books on Ukraine that follows this playlist.
Attended by over 500 people, the Zoom portion of the event featured an intense and robust chat where some participants queried about films about Ukraine. A few offered some titles.
Inspired by this community interest and observing various news organizations around the globe posting film lists, our team decided to develop a film list that would include both historical and contemporary films from Ukraine, a country with a long history of cinema. The full list contains twenty-four titles, with more added almost daily, and can be accessed HERE. This list for the University of St. Andrews Playlist is pared down to ten titles as a sampler. It is our contribution to solidarity efforts with the people of Ukraine.
We selected films that are readily available via streaming services.
We also highlight the Babylon ‘13 collective, a courageous collaborative social media initiative posting short videos from communities in Ukraine that formed during the Maidan Revolution of 2013-2014. It continues to document the war from the point of view of the Ukrainian people.
Short videos and memes circulate on social media, expanding the media ecologies of the Russian war against Ukraine. The moving tribute of Metropolitan Opera performers singing the Ukrainian National Anthem before their performance, Yo Yo Ma playing in front of the Russian Embassy in Washington DC in protest, and classical music flash mob in London’s Trafalgar Square performing the national anthem remind us that music propels the affect necessary for solidarity for the people of Ukraine.
Although memes of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as an action film superhero circulate across Instagram and Facebook, these representations diminish in significance compared to his moving speeches to the world describing the horrors of the war and the need to support Ukrainian people. Projected on a screen hung in the British House of Commons via a live link on March 8, he said “We will fight until the end, at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost. We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the shores, in the streets.”
We dedicate this list to the Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Center in Kyiv, the largest Ukrainian film archive housing over 7,000 titles. In response to the war, they have released Sergei Loznitsa’s Maidan on YouTube for free streaming access.
NOTE: These film descriptions are adapted from IMDB and press materials from the films.
The larger FLEFF list is an on-going collaborative project. We invite scholars, filmmakers, and programmers to contact us to suggest titles, features, shorts, social media projects, or bibliography.
Atlantis (Valentyn Vasyanovych, Ukraine, 2018)
In 2025 Eastern Ukraine, Sergiy is a former soldier who is having trouble adapting to his new reality. He meets Katya while she’s on a humanitarian mission dedicated to exhuming the past.
Babylon ‘13 (2014 to the present)
The Ukrainian media collective Babylon ’13 is producing short videos documenting the invasion from the point of view of every day people on the ground to counter the media representations of CNN, BBC, and other international new organizations.
Babyn Yar. Context. (Sergei Loznitsa, Ukraine, 2021)
Wide-ranging documentary about massacre at Babyn Yar of over 33,000 Jews by German troops and Nazi-directed Ukranian police. Based entirely on archive footage directly and indirectly related to Babyn Yar.
Earth (Alexander Dovzhenko, Ukraine/USSR, 1930)
This impressionistic silent Ukrainian/Russian/Soviet film follows the trials and tribulations of farmers on a collective who come into conflict with more affluent “kulak” landowners. Led by Vasili (Semyon Savshenko), the farmers pool their resources to buy a tractor, a triumphant development that soon yields to tragedy. Despite the hardships that they face, the farmers press on, with their connection to the land evident in the film’s many moments of scenic rural beauty
Maidan (Sergei Loznitsa, Ukraine/Germany, 2014)
The film by Sergei Loznista explores and follows the protests and violence in Kyiv’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) which lead to the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych.
Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, USSR and VUKVUY, All Ukrainian Photo Cinema Administration, 1929)
Part documentary and part cinematic art, this film follows a utopian city in the 1920s Soviet Union throughout the day, from morning to night. The film was shot in Odessa, Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Moscow. With a variety of complex and innovative camera shots, the film depicts scenes of ordinary daily life in Russia. Vertov celebrates the modernity of the city, with its vast buildings, dense population and bustling industries. While there are no titles or narration, Vertov still naturally conveys the marvels of the modern city.
Servant of the People (Ukraine, 2015-2019)
This TV sitcom sees Volodoymr Zelensky playing an ordinary man who accidentally becomes president of Ukraine. Servant of the People was a huge hit in Ukraine, so much so that it helped Zelensky launch a real-life political career. His ground roots political party, also called Servant of the People, helped him to a resounding victory in 2019 when he was elected president with an overwhelming majority.
Rebroadcast Begins on UK Channel 4 Sunday, March 6 10:35 p.m. in the UK.
Ukraine is not a Brothel (Kitty Green, Australia, 2013)
Ukraine’s topless feminist sensation Femen has created a media frenzy across Europe, but before they take the world by storm, these bold and beautiful women must confront the dark and perverse forces that power their organisation.
Ukraine Wild (Svetlana Egorova, UK/ Germany, 2007)
Ukraine was for many years a forgotten land in Europe. However, in 2004, Ukraine’s Ruslana won Eurovision and put Europe’s largest country in focus. It has an abundance of wildlife and manifold landscapes, from the forests of the Carpathian Mountains, across the plains to the subtropical peninsula Krim on the coast of the Black Sea. Ruslana, Ukraine’s biggest star, takes us on the ultimate sightseeing adventure.
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (Evgeny Afineevsky, Ukraine/US/ UK, 2015)
A documentary on the unrest in Ukraine during 2013 and 2014, as student demonstrations supporting European integration grew into a violent revolution calling for the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich.
Suggested Reading list on Ukraine history Compiled by Zenon Wasyliw
Anne Appelbaum, Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine (New York: Anchor Books, 2017)
Oksana Kis, Survival as Victory: Ukrainian Women in the Gulag (Cambridge: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, 2021)
Paul Robert Magocsi, History of Ukraine: The Land and its Peoples (Toronto: University of Toronto, 2010)
Serhii Plokhy, The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine (New York: Basic Books, 2017)
Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York: Basic Books, 2012)
Serhy Yekelchyk, Ukraine: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020)
FLEFF Team Bios:
Ari Kissiloff, Assistant Professor of Strategic Communication at Ithaca College, specializes in interactive media, web design, instructional and promotional video, and computer applications. He also publishes an online news outlet for the Ithaca, NY Area 14850.com. He serves at the Technical Consultant to the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival. His family emigrated to the United States from Kyiv in the 1920’s.
Michael Richardson, Professor of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Ithaca College, serves as the inaugural director of the Program in Screen Cultures with research interests in 20th- and 21st-century German literature, theater, and film, focusing on Holocaust cinema and the image of Hitler in American and German popular culture. He is the author of Revolutionary Theater and The Classical Heritage: Inheritance and Appropriation from Weimar to the GDR. He is the European Film Programming Consultant to the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.
Rachel Schaff, Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow in Screen Studies at Ithaca College, has research specialities in Documentary Studies, East European History and Culture, Film and Media Historiography, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and Transnational Melodrama. Her essays have appeared in Afterimage, Cinema et Cie, Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film, Spectator: The USC Journal of Film and Television, and Studies in Eastern European Cinema. She is Assistant to the Director of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.
Patricia Zimmermann, Charles A. Dana Professor of Screen Studies at Ithaca College, is the author of ten books, most recently, Documentary Across Platforms: Reverse Engineering Media, Place, Politics. She is Director of the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival at Ithaca College.