Oscars: Ukraine Nominates Oles Sanin's 'The Guide' for Foreign-Language Category

The Guide - H 2014
Courtesy of Odessa International Film Festival

The Guide - H 2014

Set in the 1930s during a famine engineered by Stalin, the film's Russian characters are universally evil

Ukraine's nomination for best foreign-language Oscar, Oles Sanin's The Guide, is an emotionally patriotic film set in the 1930s but reflecting more contemporary concerns.

Built around the story of a boy who witnesses the murder of his American engineer father (played by U.S. actor Jeff Burrell) by Stalin's secret police, the film is set against the background of the suppression of rural "kulaks" — wealthy farmers — and the Soviet-engineered famine that left as many as 10 million peasants dead from starvation.

When the boy (played by half Ukrainian, Michigan-born Anton Sviatoslav Greene) flees, he is saved by a blind Ukrainian folk minstrel who is the key to his survival in a world gone mad.

With a story told in bold strokes that leave little room for nuance — Soviet officials are uniformly evil — the film's nomination comes just days after a ceasefire stopped fighting after months of conflict between Russian-backed rebels and forces loyal to Kiev. The selection also arrives at a time when Ukraine has already lost its Crimean territory to Russia and fears the loss of chunks of its eastern territory that remain under rebel control.

Due for major release in mid-November, the film will get a limited run for a week starting Thursday in the western city of Rivne, which is unaffected by the fighting, in order to comply with Academy submission rules.