– Produced by The Earth Is Blue as an Orange’s Anna Kapustina, the film examines how Moscow’s policies have stripped four generations of women of their identity

Svitlana Lishchynska unveils details of her Berlinale Panorama-bound documentary A Bit of a Stranger

Alexandra Lishchynska in A Bit of a Stranger

Cineuropa took a closer look at Svitlana Lishchynska’s documentary A Bit of a Stranger, one of the films set to world-premiere in the Panorama strand of the upcoming Berlinale (15-25 February – see the news).

After working for more than 25 years for Ukrainian television, Lishchynska turned to writing and documentary directing. Before embarking on the making of this feature, she co-directed Invisible Battalion (2017) with Alina Gorlova and Iryna Tsilyk, and helmed the documentaries Verona Treasures (2020) and Ballroom King (2020).

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Svitlana Lishchynska was born in Mariupol in 1970, when the city was still under Soviet rule. In her picture, she explores the experiences of four generations of women in her family, including herself, to examine how Moscow’s longstanding imperial policies have stripped them of their true national identity. Each new generation in Svitlana’s family is more Russified than the last. Russia’s full-scale invasion is shattering the Russian component of their identity and forcing them to find another. Svitlana’s daughter flees to London with her child, and there she experiences an existential crisis. Despite the loss of her home in Mariupol, Svitlana’s mother calmly parted ways with the Soviet-Russian past. Svitlana digs deep into the colonised part of her own consciousness in an attempt to answer this question: how did Soviet totalitarianism and Russification have an impact on the relationships within her family?

Speaking to Cineuropa, the director further explains: “[In this film], I explore the colonised part of my own consciousness in an attempt to answer the question: what does it mean to be Ukrainian from the point of view of a person whose roots were destroyed and replaced by Soviet and Russian propaganda?

“This movie touches upon the most sensitive topic in our society – the colonisation of consciousness. We can liberate our territories, but the victory will not be complete without the decolonisation of consciousness. My attempt to honestly examine my own colonised consciousness is the first step towards decolonisation, because when we are able to acknowledge the problem, it’s already half solved.”

A Bit of a Stranger is being produced by Anna Kapustina for Ukrainian-based firm Albatros Communicos. Kapustina previously staged Iryna Tsylik’s 2020 Sundance hit The Earth Is Blue as an Orange [+see also:
film review
interview: Iryna Tsilyk
film profile
(winner of the Directing Award in the World Cinema Documentary Competition). She tells us: “At the beginning of 2022, an event that forever changed the lives of both Ukrainians and the world as a whole took place: the war began. All of this turned my life around, and as a producer, it gives me the opportunity [to make] films on a painful topic for my country. Our film is a deep look [at the situation and contains] the philosophical undertones of life, the struggle between good and evil, and the meaning of being.”

A Bit of a Stranger is a co-production with Germany’s ZDF in co-operation with ARTE, and Sweden’s Film i Väst and Vilda Bomben Film AB. The project also received financing from the Goethe-Institut, the Swedish Film Institute, the Göteborg Film Fund and Chicken & Egg, and was made with the support of Women Make Movies and the Ukrainian Institute.

Between 2022 and 2023, it benefited from participation in industry events such as B2B DOC, the Leipzig Dok Market’s International Media Support programme, the Nordisk Panorama Market, the Ji.hlava New Visions Co-Production Market, the East Doc Forum and CPH:DOX Forum.

Currently, all rights are available.

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