Magazine article Screen International

Ukrainian Sheriffs': Review

Magazine article Screen International

Ukrainian Sheriffs': Review

Article excerpt

Dir. Roman Bondarchuk. Ukraine, Latvia, Germany. 2015. 82 mins.

Stara Zburjivka feels like a place from another time. Perhaps that sense comes from the patched-together 1973 yellow Russian Lada which negotiates the dirt tracks of this remote hamlet in Southern Ukraine, carrying two odd-couple deputised sheriffs and waving the national flag. Or the awkwardly old-fashioned nature of the village ceremonies and celebrations. There's nothing dated about the encroaching war in the East, however, and director Roman Bondarchuk's kind-hearted semi-comic documentary soon becomes entangled in political events as the Ukrainian Sheriffs move from tackling neighbourhood nuisances to tracking down draft-dodgers.

Ukrainian Sheriffs won an unusual Special Jury award at Amsterdam's IDFA and is available in feature-length 82- and TV-friendly 52-minute formats. It's a safe bet that this watchable, wry film will find a berth at international festivals over the next year. There's a richness to its visuals and a poignancy to the ramshackle milieu of Stara Zburjivka which makes Bondarchuk's film an easy candidate for inclusion in any international documentary line-up, although crossover for this ambling feature is a much more difficult prospect without some further awards boost. TV prospects are niche.

It becomes clear early on that Victor, the town's bespectacled mayor (or chairman of the village council), is the film's hero of sorts. It was his idea to deputise two Sheriffs to tackle the town's problems, a mix of petty theft(a bicycle, ducks, the sheriffs' own TV) and seemingly endemic alcohol and drug abuse. Kolya, the town bum, has an unfortunate tendency of eating his neighbours' dogs and, as a result, is widely unpopular. …

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