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Kyiv Post | 19Jul2012 | Ilya Timtchenko

Film Critic: New documentary offers penetrating look at Holodomor

“Holodomor: Ukraine’s Genocide: The Biggest Lie, The Best Kept Secret” is an emotionally forceful, sobering and gruesome story of the calamitous reality that stormed over Ukraine in the early 1930s, exposing the darkest secrets of Josef Stalin’s regime. It is the only of its kind, a feature-length documentary directed by Hollywood director Bobby Leigh and producer Marta Tomkiw.

“Although I had fancied myself as a history buff… I had never before heard of Holodomor or any genocide or famine in Ukraine. I was also surprised… that nobody I knew had ever heard of it either,” says Leigh, who worked with Tomkiw on the movie over the course of the past five years. 

This avant-garde, captivating, high-strung and graphic piece of art is comprised of interviews and accounts of the genocide survivors and eyewitnesses of the horrific event. Using real-life stories Leigh and Tomkiw do an exceptional job of showing why the Holodomor was genocide and not simply a famine. Thus, the film is organized on the five principles of the United Nation’s definition of genocide, credited to Rafael Lemkin.

The man-made famine, perpetrated by Stalin, the Ukrainian Holodomor is a malicious calamity of the death of millions of people. Stalin believed that Ukraine was a crucial problem that Moscow had to “solve.” Thus, the Soviet rulers tried to demolish the will of independent peasants with the most inhumane means on par with Hitler’s Holocaust.

The malevolent Soviet leader executed ruthless and inhumane control over Ukrainians, which has been unnoticed by the world for over seven decades. “We found it a duty or a calling to lift the veil of silence that’s been shrouding the Ukrainian nation for too many years,” recalls Tomkiw.

Holodomor originated from the Ukrainian ‘holod’ and ‘mor,’ which mean hunger and plague, respectively. Ukraine, the breadbasket of the Soviet Union, was intentionally left without food for its own citizens. “Famine is worse than war,” says a genocide survivor shown in the documentary.

All foodstuffs were taken from Ukrainians and they were not allowed to leave the country. Enforced Russification was done by such means as changing the whole school system into Russian and replacing the haunted houses of the dead with new Russian families. Execution, famine, robbery and even accounts of cannibalism feasted in Ukraine during the early 1930s. As the film demonstrates, these were the results of orders from Moscow. 

As one of the worst crimes in history, an estimated 7.8 million lives were taken in only 17 months -- although estimates vary widely.

The documentary also reminds of the international indifference to the victims’ plight. Many smuggled letters from Ukrainians begging for help were eventually sent to Washington D.C. There was no response. Even more, the so-called “Soviet sympathizers” falsely reported in such media as The New York Times regarding Ukraine’s famine not being present at all. Ukrainians and others have long campaigned to have the 1932 Pulitzer Prize rescinded for Walter Duranty, a New York Times journalist who was a Stalin apologist.

The video received the Best Documentary Award at the Hoover Dam Short Film Festival, Best Feature Award at Monaco Charity Film Festival and has been the official selection including such film festivals as: West Hollywood International, Beverly Hills High Definition, Palm Springs and London Independent, and is the official selection of United Nations.

Tomkiw, a Detroit native of Ukrainian immigrants, worked on various film projects some of which include: John Hancock, Get Smart, Transformers, Million Dollar Baby, S.W.A.T.,Kill Bill, 8 Mile.
Leigh recently produced The Guitar Player’s Girlfriend. He also directed Infidelity, Childlike Violence, Burning Man, Broken and Butterfly Sky. 

This well-edged and talented piece of work deserves much attention in schools, universities and human right movements. The film will remind people to think of countries in terms of neighbors remembering the calamities of other nations. “Holodomor: Ukraine’s Genocide” does an exceptional job revealing history’s harsh past and, with a humble sense of hope, educating the future.

The movie is available on DVD for sale at www.HOLODOMORtheMovie.com

Kyiv Post staff writer Ilya Timtchenko can be reached at [email protected]