World Academy of Carpatho-Rusyn Culture

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Cinema

Cinema. The first feature film based on a Rusyn subject was Koriatovych (1923), produced at the Barandov Studios in Prague. Directed by the Czech Karel Just, it was based on a scenario by Vasyl’ *Pachovs’kyi, a Galician-Ukrainian emigre living at the time in *Subcarpathian Rus’. The film depicted events surrounding the life of the ninth-century Prince *Laborets’ (played by Karel Fiala) to the late fourteenth-century Prince *Koriatovych (played by Theodor Pistek). The silent film was purchased and shown among Rusyn immigrants in the United States, but no copy has survived.

During the 1930s a Czech director, Jaroslav Novotny, made a documentary on Subcarpathian Rus’ (1930), while the well-known Czech photographer and film director Karel Plicka recorded two documentary films (Po horach, po dolach/Through the Hills and Valleys, 1929; Zem spieva/The Land is Singing, 1933) that in part depicted Rusyn life in Subcarpathian Rus’ and in eastern Slovakia. These were followed by the first full-length feature movie in sound, Marijka-nevernice (The Unfaithful Marika), produced by some of the leading Czech cultural figures of the interwar years. Directed by Vladislav *Vancura, it was based on a screen play by Ivan *Olbracht and Karel Novy, with a score by the noted composer Bohuslav Martinu. Filmed on location in the Subcarpathian village of Kolochava, it did not employ professional actors, using instead local inhabitants who spoke their own languages: the peasants spoke in Rusyn, the tavern and shopkeepers in Yiddish, the local gendarmes and officials in Czech, and there were minority German speakers as well. The main role of Marika was played by a young Rusyn girl from Vyshnii Bystryi, Hanna Shkelebei. The film had a successful premiere in Prague (1934) and was subsequently shown among Rusyn and Ukrainian immigrants in the United States and Canada under the title, The Forgotten Land (1937). In the post-Communist era the film has been shown several times on Czechoslovak television. The fate of a Rusyn immigrant who returns from the United States to his native village is the subject of another film from interwar Czechoslovakia, Hordubalove (The Hordubals, 1937), directed by Martin Fric and based on the short novel, Hordubal, by the world-renowned author Karel Capek.

After World War II Czech filmmakers continued to use themes from Subcarpathian Rus’. Ivan Olbracht’s popular novel based on the life of the early twentieth-century robber-bandit Nikolai *Shuhai was the subject of feature-length films directed by Miroslav Krnansky (Nikola Suhaj loupeznik/Nikolai Shuhai the Robber Bandit, 1947) and Vladimir Sis (Balada pro banditu/Ballad About a Bandit, 1978). Other works by Olbracht on Subcarpathian themes that have in recent years been filmed by Czech directors include Golet v udoli (1996) by Zdeno Dostal and Hanele (1999—based on the short story O smutnych ocich Hany Karadzovice/The Sorrowful Eyes of Hannah Karadzhovich) by Karel Kachyna.

In terms of aesthetic and artistic quality the best film on a Carpathian subject remains Tini zabutykh predkiv (1964), made by the Soviet Armenian director working in Ukraine, Sergei Paradjanov. Released with English subtitles as Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, or in some versions Wild Horses of Fire, it is based on a tale by the early twentieth-century Ukrainian writer, Mykhailo Kotsiubyns’kyi, and is a kind of Romeo and Juliet story, in this case the tragedy of Ivan and Marika in the Carpathians. Although Kotsiubyns’kyi’s text basically described the Hutsul Region north of the mountains in Galicia, the film by Paradjanov, which garnered several international awards for its innovative and at times surrealistic cinematography, was set in an undetermined village that captured faithfully the joys and sorrows of traditional Rusyn life.

During the post-World War II era of Communist rule, the Soviets produced documentary films in praise of the new life in socialist Transcarpathia. Among such films were three with scripts by the popular novelist, Ivan *Chendei: Khudozhnyky Zakarpattia (Transcarpathia’s Artists), Verkhnovyna—krasa moia (My Beautiful Highlands), and Chorna Tysa (The Black Tysa River). It was during the post-Communist era, however, that the number of documentary films focussing specifically on Rusyns has been on the increase. Among the first of these was one commissioned by the *Museum of Ukrainian-Rus’ Culture in Svidnik, Slovakia. Directed by Miroslav Smolak and M. Kucera, Tam, kde Beskidy (Over There in the Beskyd Mountains, 1990), in both a Slovak and a Ukrainian version, shows contemporary life and staged traditions among the Rusyns of the Presov Region. A Czech director, Jana Sevcikova, completed an internationally award-winning documentary, Jakub (1992), that portrays the present-day plight of the descendants of Rusyns from a village in far northern Romania (along the border with Subcarpathian Rus’), who after World War II were resettled in western Bohemia into homesteads from which the Sudeten Germans had just been forcibly removed. Another Czech feature-length film, Diky za kazde nove rano (Something Strange Every New Morn, 1997), is based on a scenario by Halina Pawlowska, who describes life through the eyes of a young girl in Subcarpathian Rus’. Other recent films include: The Warhol Nation (1997), in Rusyn with English subtitles, by the Danish director Jakob Hogel and ethnographer Tom Trier, which reveals how the discovery of American pop artist Andy *Warhol has influenced the recent Rusyn cultural revival; Ladomirske morytaty a legendy (Tales of Murderous Deeds and Legends from Ladomirova, 1998) by the Slovak director Peter Kerekes, which is a satirical commentary on the fate of Rusyns in Slovakia after World War II; and several documentary reports by the Czech director, Pavel Stingl, on contemporary conditions in Ukraine’s Transcarpathia. Czech Television in Prague has produced an hour-long documentary on traditional culture and identity in Subcarpathian Rus’, Pisne polonin (Songs from the Polonyna Highlands, 2001), directed by Zdenek Flider, while Polish Television in Cracow has produced four documentaries directed by Krzystof Krzyzanowski about various aspects of Lemko Rusyn life in Poland, including the *Vatra festival, the Wysowa pilgrimage site, and a historical account of the *Lemko Republic of Florynka.

A few Americans of Rusyn descent have made distinguished careers in the Hollywood film world. These include Lizabeth Scott (born Emma Matzo), a sultry leading lady of the 1940s and 1950s, and Robert Urich, a television and film actor since the 1980s. Especially popular during the late 1950s and 1960s was Sandra Dee (b. Alexandra Zuck), whose typecast character of an innocent blond teenager was later immortalized as an American prototype in the widely seen Broadway musical and film Grease (1978). Another American of Rusyn background, Andy Warhol, was himself a film-maker, whose experimental movies achieved a certain renown in the underground film world during the 1960s. Rusyn-American life has been depicted in the award-winning film about the war in Vietnam, The Deerhunter (1978); several of its leading characters are of Rusyn (described as Russian) background, and it contains a wedding scene in an Orthodox church founded by Rusyn immigrants followed by reception in the *Lemko Hall, both filmed in Cleveland, Ohio.

Bibliography: Sergei Paradzhanov, Iskusstvo kino, III, 1 (Moscow, 1966)—English version: Serge Parajanov, “Perpetual Motion,” Film Comment, V (New York , 1968), pp. 38-48; Stepan Hostyniak, “‘Mariika-nevirnytsia’—pershyi ches’kyi povnometrazhnyi fil’m iz zakarpats’koho zhyttia,” Naukovyi zbirnyk Muzeiu ukrains’koi kul’tury, IX, pt. 1 (Svidnik, Bratislava, and Presov, 1980), pp. 63-82; Pavel Taussig, comp., Marijka nevernice: Ivan Olbracht, Karel Novy, Vladislav Vancura (Prague, 1982); Bohdan Zilynskyj, “Koryatovic—prvni cesky historicky film,” Filmovy sbornik historicky, Vol. II (Prague, 1991), pp. 21-38; Liubytsia Babota, “Z istorii fil’mu pro Sribnu zemliu,” Duklia, XL, 6 (Presov, 1992), pp. 59-64.

Paul Robert Magocsi

Ivan Pop

Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.
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