The «fragile memory» of the man behind the camera

    MEMORY: A Ukrainian filmmaker turns to a forgotten photo archive as his grandfather’s memory starts fading away.

    Notable Ukrainian cinematographer Leonid Burlaka worked for decades with the Odesa Film Studio. Having lensed over 30 films, Burlaka’s best-known work is perhaps the 1979 Soviet criminal drama The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed, helmed by Stanislav Govorukhin. The film starred legendary Soviet actor, poet, and singer-songwriter Vladimir Vysotsky in one of his final screen appearances. A massive hit with Soviet audiences, The Meeting Place enjoyed the status of a cult film through several generations. The once active cinematographer and vibrant mind Leonid Burlaka, or as his family and friends endearingly call him Lyonya, is now in his early 80s and finds comfort in quieter moments of life as Alzheimer’s slowly erodes his ability to remember. Struggling to come to terms with his withering memory, his grandson Ukrainian filmmaker Igor Ivanko sets out on a quest to learn about his grandfather in an intimate author-driven documentary’ Fragile Memory, screened in the international competition of this year’s Krakow Film Festival and DocAviv.

    Fragile Memory, a film by Igor Ivanko
    Fragile Memory, a film by Igor Ivanko

    The childhood superhero

    At a summer house (‘dacha’) near Odessa, «amidst piles of junk that nobody needed but was sorry to throw away,» Ivanko discovers a plastic bag full of crumbling photo films with emulsion worn off, belonging to his grandfather (it is later explained that such distortions to the images occurred due to nitrate in film, which was in use «up . . .

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    Sevara Pan
    Journalist and film critic.
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