November 11, 2020
After the Revolution of Dignity, one of the changes that swept through Ukraine was the revival of Ukrainian filmmaking. Hundreds of films have been made since 2014, with many of them only appearing thanks to support from the Ukrainian state film agency, a new institution dedicated to providing financial support to Ukrainian filmmakers.
The works of contemporary Ukrainian cinema artists can now be viewed on Takflix, the first Ukrainian web platform which allows watching Ukrainian films online. English subtitles are provided for the majority of films. About 30 films are now available on the platform including feature films, short films and documentaries, with further additions each month.
We talked with Nadiya Parfan, the platform’s creator and a Ukrainian film director, who stressed that the platform is designed to broadcast Ukrainian art films that are not necessarily profitable but are artistically valuable. A number of mass-market Ukrainian films in recent years have been available on other popular platforms. So, what is the mission of Takflix and what can you find there?
A grandmother living alone in the Chornobyl exclusion zone, a trade union leader at a municipal heating company in western Ukraine, a woman who returns from war, strange old brothers living in the Carpathian mountains and competing who will live longer – these ordinary and not-so-ordinary Ukrainians are the protagonists in films broadcast on Takflix.
The name Takflix means “tak” (in Ukrainian “yes”) to the Ukrainian cinematography. The first film appeared on the platform on 31 December 2019 and after less than a year of work as a test version, the platform has become very popular, now hosting about 30 films, some temporarily, others on a permanent basis.
“Accidentally, the first movie that we released on the platform on New Year’s Eve was 2020. Deserted country. Ironically, this is a film about deserted streets. Of course, we did not know that we would have a quarantine,” – recalls Nadiya Parfan.
2020. Deserted country by Korniy Hrytsiuk is a feature film that is disguised as a documentary. It imitates reality and in essence is an anti-utopia. The other most-watched films on the platform include the following, representing various genres of new Ukrainian cinematography:
Grandma Prisja, her daughter Slava and grandson Vovtshyk live their everyday life in the godforsaken forbidden zone of Chornobyl where there are only wild animals, rusalkas, and stalkers. A world where people know what really happened in 1986 and why the situation in Ukraine is the way it is. At least Prisja – she is over 80 – knows. One day she receives a strange warning about the catastrophe that is coming.
The film by Volodymyr Tykhyi is based on the theatrical play At the beginning and the end of time by Pavlo Arie.
Documentary Heat Singers
This is a film by Nadia Parfan, the creator of Takflix.
For many years, Ivan Vasyliovych has been a trade union leader at Ivano-Frankivsk TeploKomunEnergo, a municipal heating company in western Ukraine. His magnum opus is the trade union choir for mechanics, repairmen, dispatchers, bookkeepers, and other employees.
Is it possible to warm up the customers’ cold radiators with the power of Ukrainian folk songs?
Documentary No Obvious Signs
What is left backstage from the heroic videos of our warriors in Ukraine? This is the story of a woman who returns from war. Talking to psychologists, battling her PTSD and panic attacks, she tries hard to get back to normal life.
One film costs ~ $2 and is available for 7 days after payment. The majority of films are available throughout the world, others have limited licenses and may be available in particular countries only on other platforms at a higher price. Most films also have English subtitles, while just a few, whose owners refused to sell rights to subtitles, come without.
You can visit the platform and subscribe to the mailing from Takflix to be regularly informed about any new films released on the platform. Also, you can monitor the new updates on the facebook page of the platform.
Nadiya Parfan says that many people would like to watch not only standard dramas, horrors, and thrillers but also unique auteur films (cinéma d’auteur is an expression used to describe the films of a film director or a screenwriter which reflect their artistic personality):
“I am primarily a director and my first full movie Heat Singers was released in cinemas a year ago. It was very popular, all tickets were sold out and many people could not get to see the movie even after the third showing. There is a demand for such movies but auteur cinema is shown only in a limited number of cinemas which focus primarily on commercial movies. So, a lot of people started asking me where they can watch Heat Singers online. I looked for such platforms and realized – actually nowhere. It was clear that we need a decent place for such cinema.”
The platform does not show all Ukrainian films. Mass market films sell quite well. Takflix does not work with them because there already are platforms where these movies can be watched. The mission of Takflix is to promote the authors’ voices, says Parfan.
“In general, these are movies that have not received enough views from movie rental. I call it art mainstream — not super-mass but not too arthouse. In other words, it must be auteur cinema but comprehensible for a wider audience.”
As a film director, she also emphasizes the importance of state support to Ukrainian films that, unfortunately, is now moving towards more commercial products after a management change in 2019.
“Funding movies means investing in national security, in identity, and it is what all countries of the world do. National funding is essential if we speak about artistic movies that have value after 5, 15 years. Open transparent competitions in which teams present their projects and compete for funding was quite effective. Ukrainian movies have received numerous awards at international festivals. Now there are a lot of problems and issues because the authorities in the country changed and there is the crisis of televization. Many do not see much difference between art and movie series or mass art.”
The Takflix team’s future plans are to continue the promotion of Ukrainian films, both domestically and internationally. The web page is about to be relaunched with a new design. The team does not consider translating international films into Ukrainian, which would be too expensive, but plans active promotion of Ukrainian films abroad, including through cinema festivals.
Nadiya Parfan has already announced two of her new movies. The first one, coming soon, is Brendari, a short documentary in collaboration with the publishing house Rodovid rethinking the most important Ukrainian graphic designer of the early 20th century, Heorhiy Narbut, and his heritage. Narbut designed Ukraine’s coat of arms, the Ukrainian People’s Republic’s banknotes (1917-1919), postage stamps, charters, and many illustrations in books.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Institute London and Cambridge Ukrainian Studies have joined forces to present an online festival of Ukrainian films. For two weeks from 17 November 2020, the digital cinema will showcase contemporary Ukrainian films that you can watch at your pleasure and they will be hosting live Q&As with film directors via Zoom.
The festival programme includes the following films:
‘The Forgotten’ directed by Daria Onyshchenko. https://vimeo.com/365370047
‘The Gateway’/ ‘Brama’ directed by Volodymyr Tykhi. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqIt7tCZgGA&feature=youtu.be
‘Home Games’ directed by Alisa Kovalenko.https://vimeo.com/191692016
‘The Train: Kyiv-War’ directed by Kornii Hrytsiuk. https://vimeo.com/253808794
Bohdan Ben is a researcher in the field of social and ethical philosophy and in the field of local governance. He was among the winners of the program “Youth will change Ukraine” organized by Bohdan Hawrylyshyn Foundation. Together with his friends, he began the implementation of the project “In the land of Hope,” which aims to facilitate and promote local initiatives that strive for social and ecological sustainability.