Magazine article Screen International

'Almost Holy (Crocodile Gennadiy)': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'Almost Holy (Crocodile Gennadiy)': Review

Article excerpt

Dir/ed. Steve Hoover, US-Ukraine, 2015, 96 mins.

Crocodile Gennadiy is a powerful, meaty documentary set between 2000 and 2015 and shot by Steve Hoover (Blood Brother) in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, now a strategic prize in the conflict with Russia. Centred around a controversial, vigilante pastor who abducts homeless, drug-addicted children who are living rough and brings them to his Pilgrim Centre for treatment (often adopting them himself), it ploughs a fairly neutral line through a swarm of huge issues. Hoover wants the viewers to come to their own decision about Pastor 'Crocodile' Gennadiy and his mission, even as the world he has forcibly tried to put right spins further and further out of his control.

Assembled from archive material and footage shot by Hoover and his team in Mariupol, Crocodile Gennadiy is, at times, a handsome-looking film, the smoke belching from Mariupol's Soviet-era industrial landscape providing a beautifully brutal backdrop to the poverty of the lives lived in the shadow of the giant steel factories. Gennadiy Mokhnenko, the pastor, goes by the nickname of 'Crocodile' after the hero of a Soviet-era children's animated show, a Russian Kermit who sets the world to rights. Clips from the amateurish TV series give the only real clue of what director Hoover feels about the real-life events playing out on screen. They're certainly shocking.

Executive produced by Terrence Malick, Crocodile Gennadiy starts in Mariupol with a young girl, her face battered and swollen beyond all proportion, being brought by Gennadiy to hospital in his bare-bones paddywagon. She's an intravenous drug user, like all the children who litter Geddadiy's centre, their thin arms festooned with trackmarks and their lives beyond squalid and hopeless. "You just can't walk past a kid living on the street, you just can't," says the pastor in his broken English. "You don't need permission."

Crocodile Gennadiy doesn't follow an identifiable arc; Hoover seems averse to this kind of documentary construction, plus events have over-taken any sense of being able to tack a crafted ending onto this film. Gennadiy labours in the shadow of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the collapse of any form of social care: the fallout has bankrupted the poor people of Ukraine, financially and morally. …

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