On March 1, 2017, the MacEwan Ukrainian Students’ Club co-hosted a pre-screening for one of the most anticipated films of the year, Bitter Harvest, with the University of Alberta Ukrainian Students’ Society. The screening, held at the U of A Telus Theatre, was one of four national pre-screenings held by other various student organisations under the Ukrainian Students’ Union of Canada, including in Saskatoon, Winnipeg, and Montreal.
Through testimonials, research, and accurate records from Ukraine’s history during the 1930’s, Bitter Harvest, directed by George Mendeluk and produced by Ian Ihnatowycz — who also financed the 21-million-dollar film — depicts the tragedies of the Holodomor. The Holodomor, which translates to “death by hunger” in Ukrainian, was a man-made famine and genocide that starved millions of Ukrainians during 1932-33, according to holodomor.ca. The site also notes that the event was a direct result of Soviet politics under the rule of Joseph Stalin.
“Bitter Harvest showcases a powerful story of love, honour, rebellion, and survival,” according to the film’s website, bitterharvestfilm.com. Max Irons and Samantha Banks play inseparable childhood sweethearts Yuri and Natalka, respectively. The pair are from a rural community, and fight the rebellion of the Holodomor brought on by Soviet Russia in their attempt to gain more control over Ukrainians and their crop productions.
“Filmed on location in Ukraine, this … (film) brings to light one of the most overlooked and most devastating chapters to modern Europe,” according to the website.
The screening was filled with 298 viewers, and featured special guest Natalia Talanchuk, a Holodomor survivor. Alongside her were many affiliate members of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and government officials.
Gene Zwozdesky, 12th Speaker (Retired) of the Alberta Legislative Assembly and Former MLA, also participated in the Edmonton pre-screening. He was in awe for the making of this “incredibly insightful and educational film about one of the greatest tragedies of modern time.”
Zwozdesky said that this film “has put this tragedy into a well-made action adventure story,” and captured “every emotion from those who cherish and fight for their own freedom and that of others.”
Zwozdesky noted that he “wrote and presented the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide (Holodomor) Act in the Alberta Legislative Assembly in 2008.”
In the past 10 years, the Holodmor has gotten plenty of recognition as an event of genocide from the UN, United States, Canada, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation. This movie strives to further bring out acknowledgement of the Holodomor around the world.
The film is currently playing at North Edmonton Cineplex.
Cover photo supplied.