OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

Family Portrait In Black And White

Winner - Best Canadian Documentary HotDocs Film Festival 2011

Opening with a montage of belligerent skinheads, Julia Ivanova's doc portrays radical compassion under fire. Olga Nenya is the ultimate Mom, with 27 children – some biological, but most fostered – under her care in a rundown home in Sumy, Ukraine. Most of the children are mixed-race blacks, many rejected by their mothers due to social stigma. The fascist footage establishes a climate of oppression and desperate need that this amazing woman fights all day, every day.

Poster art for Family Portrait In Black & WhiteOlga is no superhero, though, just a flawed but dedicated human who pushes herself, the state, and sometimes her children to their limits. This is not sentimental hagiography: we see this woman being imperious and stifling, and her children show all-too-human flaws amidst their hopes and needs.

It's a vivacious lot: Kiril is an ambitious, scholarly music lover, standing apart from the other children in recognizable and occasionally disturbing ways; Sashka is a swaggeringly confident kid with energy to spare and a bit of a chip on his shoulder; Roman is a soccer prodigy whose young personality we get to see emerge throughout the film. Economic desperation, intimate psychology and plain, imperfect human beauty are on full display in this film. Ivanova has an eye for fly-on-the-wall observation and a trust in her audience: she knows we're scrupulous enough to sort the good from the bad.

– Vancouver International Film Festival
 

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