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Film Discussion: Evilenko

This event was hosted virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live.

Please join the Ukrainian Film Club of Columbia University and the Harriman Institute for a discussion of the film Evilenko (2002) with director David Grieco and lead actor Malcolm McDowell, moderated by Professor Yuri Shevchuk.

Grieco and McDowell will discuss the making of the film and the ways in which it explores the Soviet mindset that still has a grip on millions of people today, thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The crime drama Evilenko (released in 2004) is based on the real-life story of Andrei Chekatilo, a.k.a. the Monster of Rostov, the most prolific serial killer in the history of the Soviet Union who murdered some 52 children and women. Italian director David Grieco uses Chekatilo’s story as a metaphor for the Soviet totalitarian system that corrupts its own citizens and kills its future children. A powerful indictment of communism, this outstanding and underappreciated film assumes a new and disturbing resonance today in a world swept by populism and submerged in the parallel reality of alternative facts and post-truths, when many Western democracies are increasingly resembling the Orwellian Soviet Union where love is hatred, truth is a lie, and peace is war. Evilenko is brilliantly prescient of Trump’s America, Johnson’s Britain, Orbán’s Hungary, Bolsonaro’s Brazil, and Putin’s Russia, where populist politicians have found enthusiastic support among voters and threaten to rob these countries of a future and doom them to forever live in the past.

David Grieco (b. 1951) started his film career as actor working with such directors as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Franco Zeffirelli, and Bernardo Bertolucci. Pasolini, who wanted Grieco as his assistant director, has been his most important source of inspiration. At the age of 19, he left the actor career and became a film critic for the Communist paper L’Unità. During his thirties, Grieco started directing documentaries. His directorial debut in the feature narrative film genre Evilenko won Grieco the nomination for Donatello, Italy’s equivalent of the Oscar, in the Best New Director category. The film is based on his thoroughly researched nonfiction book The Communist Who Ate Children (Il comunista che mangiava i bambini). After reading the book, the actor Malcolm McDowell, a close friend of Grieco’s, urged him to adapt it for the screen. Grieco agreed and invited McDowell to play the lead part.

Grieco’s second feature film, the crime drama The Ploy (La macchinazione, 2016) is based on his eponymous book that investigates and debunks the official version of the director Pier Paolo Pasolini’s death, arguing that it was a premeditated assassination organized by the powers that be to prevent him from publishing a story revealing the deep penetration of organized crime into the government of Italy. Grieco’s latest work is the 2019 feature documentary Notarangelo. The Robber of Souls (Notarangelo ladro di anime).

Malcolm McDowell (b. 1947) (title role in Evilenko) is a celebrated English actor whose career in film has spanned over 50 years. McDowell won international recognition and fame for his roles of Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick‘s A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Mick Travis in the trilogy of if…. (1968), O Lucky Man! (1973), and Britannia Hospital (1982) directed by Lindsey Anderson and the title character in Caligula (1979). He has also appeared in films such as Time After Time (1979), Cat People (1982), Gulag (1985), Star Trek Generations (1994), Tank Girl (1995), Gangster No. 1 (2000), Easy A (2010), The Artist (2011) and Bombshell (2019). He also appeared as Dr. Samuel Loomis in the 2007 remake Halloween and its 2009 sequel, Halloween II. McDowell has also had a string of roles on television series such as recurring roles on Entourage (2005–2011) and Heroes (2006–2007); and starring roles on Franklin & Bash (2011–2014), and Mozart in the Jungle (2014–2018). Later in his career he became a prolific voice actor in films, television series and video games such as Metalocalypse (2007–2012), Bolt (2008), Fallout 3 (2008), God of War III (2010), The Elder Scrolls Online (2014) and Call of Duty: Black Ops III (2015). He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012. In Evilenko, Malcolm McDowell delivers a truly unforgettable and powerful performance.

An English version of Yuri Shevchuk’s interview with Malcolm McDowell done in March 2010 for the Ukrainian magazine Kino-Kolo can be downloaded here.

Malcolm McDowell’s most recent interview was published by The Guardian on July 17, 2020.

Where to watch Evilenko:

Amazon Prime Video (where available; not available in the U.S.)

Netflix DVD

Some versions exist on YouTube.

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