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Ukrainian cinema

Ukrainian cinema

The history of Ukrainian cinema started to be written few years after the breakthrough made by the Lumière brothers in France. However, the Ukrainians had something in store of their own and it’s said that a very similar device was built in 1893 in Odessa and the photographer Kharkiv A.K. Fedetsky produced the first documentary films.


Oleksand Dovzhenko

Poetic cinema

During the first 20 years of the 20th century, Ukrainian cinema enjoyed a steady development with various important names like actor O.M. Oleksiienko, who made feature films in Kharkiv from 1909 and D. Sakhnenko with films such as Charwoman. In 1918 a Studio of the Screen Art was organized in Kyiv and the important names of producing included V.Gardin, H.Stabovyi and A. Lundin.

But the 20s brought international renown to Ukrainian cinema thanks to Oleksand Dovzhenko’s work between the 1920s-30s. He and other important directors made the term “poetic cinema” a determinant in Ukrainian cinema aesthetics. It was precisely that movement which tried to make the cinema of the country stands out from the canons dictated by the Soviet regime and the popular social realism themes in soviet republics cinema.

The golden age

Dovzhenko’s dominance of Ukrainian cinema spanned through over two decades and his invaluable input was recognized in 1957 when the Kyiv Film Studio was named after him to the present.

Until the decades of the 60s and 70s, the cinema industry didn’t flourish as much as in the previous years and productions plunged to levels never seen before. But the 60s and 70s transformed it all and that time lapse became known as the Golden Era of Ukrainian cinema bestowing the world with plenty of masterpieces like Borys Ivchenko’s Taras Shevchenko , Igor Savchenko's The Lost Letter (1973) and Leonid Osyka’s Dangerous Month of September (1976) produced at the Dovzhenko Film Studios



Leonid Osyka


Bohdan Stupka

A difficult production

In the late 20th century after the collapse of USSR, Ukrainian cinema faced the same fate of its fellow former soviet countries. State financing of film-making almost disappeared and the film distribution system was dismantled. Only a few Ukrainian films were shot and, of those, very few were actually released in cinema. However, from that era films like the two-part epic  A Prayer for Hetman Mazepa (2002), presented at the Berlin Film Festival, are amongst the most important. Also, actors like Bohdan Stupka have gained international renown not only acting in Ukraine but also in other Eastern Europe films.

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