Attending the Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival a couple of years back proved to be one of my most memorable festival experiences. Admittedly, part of that had to do with being acutely aware of my foreignness (I encountered not one other American during my stay – well, unless you count the mercenary in the hotel lobby who struck up a conversation after hearing my accent) in a country I’d never been to (one that still felt fresh off a revolution and was deeply embroiled in a border war). This was long before our current US president tried to shake down their president, of course – even before they elected a comedian to the highest office in the land – so Ukraine wasn’t really in the media feeds of many of us here in the States.
But the other thing that made the Kyiv – based festival so unforgettable is that it’s just hands down an impressively run event (complete with enthusiastic young volunteers who often doubled as engaging personal tour guides, eager for the opportunity to practice some English). So I guess it should come as no surprise that in the midst of a global pandemic the topnotch Docudays UA team decided to forge ahead with their 17th edition, which runs from April 24-May 3, albeit online. And luckily for those of us self-isolating from afar, doing so with an industry program made available to a worldwide audience for free (and in English!) via their YouTube channel.
So whether you’re an insomniac looking to livestream one of the 30-plus informative discussions and workshops from several time zones away – or would prefer to view at your own convenience (all English-language industry content will ultimately be uploaded to the English version of the site – here are a few suggestions for an educational (and fun!) self-isolating time.
Yes, you read that correctly. A lunchtime discussion between documentarians and the Docudays UA moderators over soup will take place throughout the nine-day course (no pun intended) of the fest. Subjects range from China to the state of democracy, to filmmaking in a post-lockdown world. (Bring your own soup.)
This program is packed with cinephilic goodies – from a «Why watch essay film online?” discussion with film critics to a Heimat Is a Space in Time (Thomas Heise’s Berlinale/TIFF stunner encapsulating Germany’s 20th-century history through three generations of his family) chat with the doc’s DP about the relationship between text and image. And then there are the all too timely topics. «International market after the quarantine: how to distribute documentary films tomorrow?» (with commissioning editors and sales agents) and «Force majeure has happened – and it’s global. How will festival policies change now?» (moderated by IDFA’s artistic director Orwa Nyrabia and including an array of knowledgable panelists, such as CPH:DOX’s founder and director Tine Fischer) should provide some post-pandemic guidance.
Though probably closer to midnight if you’re streaming live from across the pond. Luckily, «workout» seems to be a flexible word in Ukrainian. This is a gathering of «friends, guests, and the team (the DOCU/PEOPLE)» to offer some extra-cinematic uplift. For example, «DOCU/PEOPLE talk and cook» is a «brownie cooking session guided by brownie enthusiasts and docu/family Yuliia Kochetova-Nabozhniak and Roman Nabozhniak.» (The two happen to be founders of something called the Veterano Brownie confectionery, which sells «18 different types of brownie dessert.”) While «DOCU/PEOPLE celebrate life» is a pre-awards ceremony party/tutorial for «mixing cinematic cocktails at home.» What better way to close out a virtual fest in our brand new, Zoom-connecting world?