Doc Filmmakers Equip Ukrainian Volunteers in Struggle Against Pro-Russian Separatists

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Makers of documentary about post-World War Two Lithuanian guerrilla war against the Red Army get involved in contemporary regional struggle

The makers of a documentary film about a decade-long Eastern European post World War Two guerrilla war against Soviet occupation forces, The Invisible Front -- which opens theatrically in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles and across the US next month -- have been helping supply Ukrainian volunteer battalions in the region's modern struggle against Russian-backed aggression.

Shot by a team that includes US director of Lithuanian descent Vincas Sruoginis, Vilnius-based co-director Jonas Ohman and producer Mark Johnston, the documentary relates the little-known true-story of the 'forest brothers' - young Lithuanians who waged war against Soviet forces for nearly 10 years after their country was occupied by the Red Army in 1944.

Using the film company's charitable status, the filmmakers have also been raising money to buy equipment for volunteer units in neighboring Ukraine's current struggle against pro-Russian separatists who are backed officially unacknowledged Russian troops and sophisticated weaponry.

Many of the volunteers in the Ukrainian units are young men and women who were actively involved in the country's 'EuroMaidan' revolution last winter, now locked in a desperate struggle for the future of their country that continues despite the declaration last month of a ceasefire.

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"When friends we had met at Maidan started to call, begging us to send helmets and body-armor, their voices surprisingly distinct against a background of howling and impacting Grad artillery rockets, there was not really that much to say," Ohman told The Hollywood Reporter.

"With little or no idea how to get hold of such items, not to speak about how to ship them to the eastern outskirts of Ukraine, we started calling around."

When initial funds ran out Ohman and what he describes as a team of "artists, painters, photographers, poets, filmmakers, architects, taxi drivers, housewives, Lithuanians, Swedes, Russians, Poles, most of us with little or no military training, but with a sense for history and its twists and turns," began raising money to buy equipment that includes helmets, body armor, uniforms, medical kit, gloves, knee protection and other protective items.

Motivated by a desire to help what they see as a neighbor's struggle for independence that is part of strategic struggle with Russia going back a century, Ohman adds: "That [this is a] war…history drawing up a stage play we have seen before. Just, possibly, this time with a different outcome."

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The Invisible Front tells the story of the tens of thousands of young Lithuanian from villages, schools and universities, who took to the forests to form a guerilla movement, focusing on one of its most charismatic leaders, Juozas Luksa, Last spring it won an audience award at Lithuania's annual film festival Kino Pavasaris.

The film opens theatrically at Cinema Village in New York, Nov. 7, Chicago Nov. 14 and the Music Hall in Los Angeles Nov. 21 followed by a national U.S. rollout.