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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Ukraine

EXCLUSIVE: Igor Storchak announces end of principal photography, unveils new details about Artem Litvinenko’s Against All Odds

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- The documentary investigates how Ukraine managed to thwart the “blitzkrieg” of the world’s second largest army and forced it to retreat from Kyiv

EXCLUSIVE: Igor Storchak announces end of principal photography, unveils new details about Artem Litvinenko’s Against All Odds
Andrzej Fałkowski during the filming of Artem Litvinenko’s Against All Odds

Announced last month, Artem Litvinenko’s documentary Against All Odds has now finalised principal photography. Cineuropa talked to the director of this project and Igor Storchak, co-founder of the Organisation of Ukrainian Producers (OUP) and producer at Gingers Media.

When we prepared for filming the whole team spent hours discussing with different experts the first month of the war. We had a feeling that there was a unique, very sophisticated plan for David to beat Goliath. The picture now is different. We have the world’s top experts. They have an exceptional and sharp point of view on what has happened; their comments are very precise,” Storchak told Cineuropa.

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“We want to make a film that is as objective as possible. Of course, this is difficult for a Ukrainian film crew. For an unbiased view of the war, we, first of all, need the opinions of independent experts who are not involved in hostilities, but who are well versed in the topic,” explained Litvinenko.

The speakers involved include retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who commanded NATO forces in Europe, as well as Andrzej Fałkowski, Polish Military Representative at the Military Committees of NATO and the European Union.

“All of them saw a lot during their service. Many were participants in the hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, they understand the situation, they know and observed all the preludes for this war, they can assume the development of events from the point of view of their experience. But, as Hodges himself admitted, everyone had understood that there had been a very high probability of an invasion, but it had still seemed unthinkable that in our time one European country would attack another European country,” Litvinenko continued.

Predictably, the project has to face a number of challenges. “Firstly, this is a very difficult project from an emotional point of view. When you constantly see photos and videos of destruction in media, you get used to it, but when you see it live, sniff the smells of burning and of decomposed bodies, it is impossible to get used to it.”

“We filmed a lot of heroes among those who took part in hostilities. In particular, I was personally very impressed by the guys who defended Moshchun, a village in the Kyiv region. They were under constant artillery fire and opposed unequal forces. I was struck by the motivation of these people. After all, these are ordinary guys who, until February 24, were psychologists, logisticians, truckers and bartenders, and now, with weapons in their hands, they risk their lives for the sake of the country,” the director further explained.

The biggest challenge was to retrace the detailed course of events, though. “To do this, we had to find the participants in the hostilities, and all the military are constantly moving, especially the special services. We were lucky as we were able to catch them before their rotation to the East of Ukraine,” the helmer added.

Filming began in April. The crew documented what was left after the Russian retreat from Kyiv and witnessed destroyed suburbs and Russian trenches in the radioactive forest in Chernobyl. They also spoke to the people who stopped the Russian army’s advance.

“We wanted to figure out where and at what moment what battle took place, who was the first to encounter the Russian military, and why there was this or that outcome of events,” Litvinenko pointed out.

Against All Odds is being produced by Storchak, Viktor Mirsky, Volodymyr Borodyansky, with Serhiy Lysianyi serving as the executive producer. The technical crew includes DoP Kyryl Shlyamin, editor Vladimir Zaprigalov and sound engineer Aleksandr Titarenko. Litvinenko co-wrote the doc with Andriy Babyk. The feature is a joint project between OUP and outfit Gingers Media, with support of the Ukrainian Centre for Defence Strategies. It will be released later this autumn.

Three OUP-backed documentaries have been already finalised: Mariupol. Unlost Hope, Nine Lives and HopeBahnhof. “For these titles, we have received an offer for international distribution by one of the biggest sales outfits. We hope to be able to reveal all the details of this deal soon,” Storchak disclosed.

Watch this space.

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