Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Film Screening & Discussion. Slovo House. Unfinished Novel
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Important Note

Registration required. This event is open to CUID card holders only. Attendees must be in compliance with Columbia University’s health protocols for returning to campus. Pre-registration, valid CUID card, and valid green pass are required for admittance.


Please join the Ukrainian Film Club at Columbia University and the Harriman Institute for a screening of director Taras Tomenko’s 2021 film Slovo House. Unfinished Novel. Introduction and discussion led by Yuri I. Shevchuk.

In his directorial debut in the genre of feature narrative film, director Taras Tomenko brings to life the tragic story of the apartment building called Slovo (“The Word”) in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. It was built by the Soviet government in the late 1920s to accommodate, better control, and conveniently spy on Ukrainian writers, theater and film directors and other prominent cultural figures. Slovo House became a symbol of the Ukrainian cultural revival, also known as the Executed Renaissance. Some eighty percent of the original residents of Slovo House were killed in the genocide carried out by the Soviets. Among its residents were Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Poles, and even Swedes—all taking an enthusiastic part in the project of a new, modern and decolonizing Ukrainian socialist republic.

An inextricable mixture of politics and intrigue, revolution and innovation, pushing the boundaries of what’s allowed and exploring new frontiers of self-expression, love and sex, deceit and treachery, communist orthodoxy and bourgeois decadence defined this brief period of relative freedom in Soviet-occupied Ukraine. Slovo House was a microcosm of that epoch, of the country that fell for the Bolshevik promise of the brave new world, the promise that all too fast turned into the nightmare of the Holodomor, the perennial war waged by Russia against Ukraine. In a tragic epilogue of its real-life story, the Slovo House building that survived the Soviet scorched-land tactic in WW2 as well as the Nazi occupation was damaged by Russian bombardment a few weeks ago.

The film is strikingly poetic and, at the same time, poignantly realistic. Its sfumato monochromatic cinematography makes every scene atmospheric and memorable.

In Ukrainian with English subtitles.

Running time: 120 minutes