Ukraine has selected Valentyn Vasyanovych’s dark story of a man’s midlife crisis, Black Level, as its candidate for the best foreign-language film at the Oscars.
The film, Vasyanovych’s third feature, tells the story of a 50-year-old wedding photographer, Kostya, whose life falls apart as all that seemed permanent disappears. In his professional life, he captures images of others’ happiness while, in a dark reflection of those lives, his father, paralyzed by a stroke, his girlfriend, a stylist at a wedding magazine, and even his old cat leave his life.
The film impressed international critics last month at the Odessa International Film Festival, where it won the FIPRESCI prize.
Vasyanovych, a graduate of the Wajda Film School in Poland, was a producer on The Tribe, directed by Miroslav Slaboshpitsky, which won the Grand Prix in the Critics’ Week competition at Cannes in 2014.
Vasyanovych teamed with Iya Mysitska, also a producer on The Tribe, and Dennis Ivanov to produce Black Level.
The film is Ukraine’s 10th foreign-language Oscar submission since 1997. No Ukrainian film has made the shortlist for the Academy Awards.
In 2015, Ukraine was unable to submit a film due to a conflict over the makeup of the Ukrainian Oscar committee and a new selection procedure between Ukraine’s national filmmakers’ union and the Ukrainian producers’ association.
The shift was prompted by a controversy in 2014, when the selection of The Guide over The Tribe, Ukraine’s biggest international festival hit of recent years, triggered accusations of conflicts of interest.
In the summer of 2016, the two conflicting agencies signed a memorandum agreeing on the makeup of the Ukrainian Oscar committee, which was later approved by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Subsequently, Ukraine was able to submit the documentary Ukrainski sherify (Ukrainian Sheriffs) last year.