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Image: Clockwise from top left: Vasyl Lyah, Метаробота / Metawork (2021); Sashko Protyah and Oksana Kazmina, Вы шо, тут металл воруете? (Відновлення простору) / Revitalization of Space​​ (2018); Oleksandr Surovtsov, Totally stranger (2018); Natasha Tzeliuba, МОИ КОСМОС / MY COSMOS​ (2019); Sashko Protyah and Oksana Kazmina, Шо шо? (Східноукраїнський діалог) / Eastern Ukrainian Dialogue​​ (2018);  Sashko Protyah and Vasyl’ Tkachenko​​, Хайт / Khayt (2022)

Freefilmers Collective

Solidarity Screening

May 12, 2022
— July 11, 2022

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, MOCA’s chief curator November Paynter was in touch with colleagues in East Europe to learn how to support Ukrainian artists at this time. In consultation with Sebastian Cichocki, Chief Curator and Head of Research at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, in solidarity with Ukraine, MOCA is screening six films from the Freefilmers Collective.

Produced prior to the invasion, the videos presented below were selected for their atmospheric qualities. The subjects strive to understand how they fit into their surroundings, using cultural signifiers of the past (such as derelict buildings) as a way to reimagine the future; these are places people choose to stay in and return to, even when difficult.

Freefilmers is a collective of filmmakers and artists, originally from Mariupol, Ukraine. For the past five years, they have been working with themes that explore urban transformations in East Ukraine and the geography’s multicultural vibes. The collective has also researched the working-class creativity and industrial past and present of post-socialist cities. Their most recent projects focus on memories and archives beyond official historical narratives and gender violence in a patriarchal capitalist society. Freefilmers have always stuck to an anti-capitalist agenda and intersectional feminism, and their goal is to create different forms of filmmaking, based on cooperation and an ethical approach.

You can help further by following Freefilmers on Instagram and Facebook, sharing their content, and by donating to them directly.

Vasyl Lyah​

Метаробота / Metawork​

Vasyl Lyah’s film Метаробота / Metawork (2021, 25:16 min) uses the mundane aspects of growing a sunflower garden on his balcony as a way to speak to his work and creativity. These tasks are not tedious, intimate shots of him buying large bags of soil, smoking, online scrolling, printing photos, shaving his head, and calling a taxi become meditative. The film turns sentimental when he digs up the entire garden to rescue a bird that’s found its way under the garden bed. The care poured into the garden related to a larger cultural identity, as sunflowers are a significant symbol and a huge agricultural export in the Ukraine.

Sashko Protyah and Vasyl’ Tkachenko​

Хайт / Khayt

The film Хайт / Khayt (2022, 8:44 min), documents a musicians stay at an arts residency in the city of Maripol in the year 2068. They’re making a sound installation for the Annual Music festival dedicated to Azov Greeks. Khayt is underground music, played in run-down places (early 2000s dive bar aesthetic mixed with 2060s DIY technology). The narrator describes the mundane tasks like checking in with the organisers while realising the project, and weaves these details into cultural observations such as the languages spoken in Maripol (Ukrainian, Russian, Surzhyk, Urum, and Rumekia).

Sashko Protyah and Oksana Kazmina​

Вы шо, тут металл воруете? (Відновлення простору) / Revitalization of Space​

In Sashko Protyah and Oksana Kazmina’s documentary Revitalization of Space (2018, 25:24 min), the film crew travels around Eastern Ukraine to research derelict areas and buildings. There are over 150 buildings in the area that are abandoned, from old glass factory dormitories to deserted restaurants. The film crew asks residents “what was the building? and what would you like to see in this building?” The answers range from demolish to revitalisation. The Druzhba skate park in Lysychansk, shows how a building can be occupied for the benefit of the community without being a massive revitalisation project. The film crew believes imagining new ways to occupy these buildings are important as they offer “contemplations about who you are, about time and connections between people.”

Sashko Protyah and Oksana Kazmina

Шо шо? (Східноукраїнський діалог) / Eastern Ukrainian Dialogue​

In Sashko Protyah and Oksana Kazmina’s documentary Eastern Ukrainian Dialogue (2018, 25:35 min), the film crew travels around Eastern Ukraine to research the different languages spoken in the region. Most people in East Ukraine come from other places due to the continuous political changes in the region. The film crew asks the locals “in how many languages can you say thank you?” The film crew believes researching communication is important not just to understand others, but to understand yourself and the experiences that shape an individual’s worldview. The film ends on a serious note addressing how the 2014 Crimean conflict shaped culture, without providing an exact answer the film comes to the conclusion that the only way to have a peaceful future is to be accepting of differences.

Oleksandr Surovtsov

Totally stranger

Surovtsov’s ambient film Totally stranger (2018, 13:39 min) observes a grieving woman as she wanders from a cemetery through windy fields to various urban locations with abandoned buildings. The soft-focus of the black and white film makes it clear, she’s not looking for a place, she’s trying to find her sense of self without her loved one. The woman is isolated and detached from reality, seeking answers to emotional questions and a cathartic release.

Natasha Tzeliuba


In Natasha Tzeliuba’s MY COSMOS (2019, 10:55 min), the narrator finds herself back in her hometown (Cosmos), after being absent for 10 years. Tzeliuba directly references the name of her hometown and the failed soviet space race as she walks through the town in a spacesuit. Passing by derelict buildings while she reminisces on childhood memories, and the growing pains she associates with the district. In one scene she asked some children what they think of the district and they say the stars are very bright and beautiful from Cosmos.

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