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The Ukrainian Film Club of Columbia University will screen and discuss the extraordinarily penetrating and powerful feature documentary from Poland The Hamlet Syndrome: To Be or Not to Be in Ukraine (2022) by director Elwira Niewiera. Yuri Shevchuk will introduce the film and lead the discussion.
A few months prior to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, five young women and men participate in a unique stage production that attempts to relate their war experiences to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. For each of them, the stage is a platform to express their grief and trauma through the famous question, “to be or not to be,” a dilemma that applies to their own lives. The protagonists fight against disappointment, powerlessness, and anger, trying to put their lives back in order while processing their painful past: Slavis, who went through the hell of war and captivity as a soldier, Katia, who longs for her mother’s forgiveness for joining the army, Rodion, who escaped from Donbas and is now facing growing homophobia, Roman, who is still struggling with the traumatic memories of his experience as a paramedic on the battlefield, and Oksana, who struggles on an artistic frontline as an actress. The rehearsals of the play are combined with an intense glimpse into the characters’ lives creating a powerful portrait of the generation coping with the trauma of war which now, after Russia invaded Ukraine, is their present and future alike.
The Hamlet Syndrome is a powerful portrait of a vibrant young Ukrainian generation, the first one born after the collapse of the Soviet Union, shaped by the Maidan Revolution of 2013, empowered by political change and scarred by war.
Elwira Niewiera is a Polish/German director and screenwriter based in Berlin. In her artistic work, she focuses primarily on social and cultural transformations in Eastern Europe. Her feature documentary Domino Effect (co-directed with Piotr Rosolowski) was shown worldwide at more than 50 festivals, including IDFA, Hot Docs Toronto, and MoMa Doc Fortnight, and won many awards, among which were the Golden Dove at DOK Leipzig Film Festival and the Golden Horn at the Krakow Film Festival. The film received a nomination for the Polish Film Academy Award in the category of Best Documentary. Her last documentary, The Prince and the Dybbuk (co-directed with Piotr Rosolowski), premiered at the 74th Venice Film Festival and was awarded the Lion for the Best Documentary on Cinema and the Polish Film Academy Award for Best Documentary, among others. She is the winner of the 2020 Young German Cinema Award and the prestigious American Chicken & Egg Award 2021.
Piotr Rosołowski is a Polish director, screenwriter, and cinematographer based in Berlin. He graduated from the Katowice Film School and was awarded an Academy of Media Arts scholarship in Cologne. Co-author of Rabbit a la Berlin – Academy Award-nominated short documentary film and co-director of Domino Effect with Elwira Niewiera. Their latest documentary film The Prince and the Dybbuk won the Lion for Best Documentary on Cinema at the 74th Venice Film Festival. Piotr also works as director of photography, he shot many awarded feature and short films, among them: On the line dir. Reto Caffi – Academy Award-nominated short fiction, The Wall of Shadows dir. Eliza Kubarska – awarded with the annual prize of Polish Society of Cinematographers.