Ukraine’s Recent Oscar Entries ‘Bad Roads,’ ‘Donbass’ and Sundance Docu Nabbed By Film Movement (EXCLUSIVE)

Film Movement has acquired all North American rights to two previous Ukrainian Oscar entries “Bad Roads” and “Donbass,” as well as the Sundance award-winning documentary “The Earth Is Blue as an Orange.”

“Bad Roads,” which was Ukraine’s Oscar candidate last fall, marks the feature debut of playwright-turned-filmmaker, Natalya Vorozhbit. The politically minded omnibus film, which premiered at Venice in 2020, is adapted from Vorozhbit’s play and unfolds in the recently invaded Eastern region of Donbass.

“Bad Roads” features four stories shedding light on life in the front-line war zone of Donbass: one man alleging to be a schoolmaster is accosted by the military at a checkpoint, two teenagers wait for their soldier boyfriends in a dilapidated town square; a journalist is held captive and gets brutally assaulted; and a young woman apologizes to an elderly couple for running over their chickens.

Variety’s review said the film “gains extra resonance from current events in this troubled region,” and “introduces a new talent to watch in debuting writer-director Natalya Vorozhbit.”

Vorozhbit told IndieWire that she was finishing the shooting of her sophomore film “Demons” when the bombs arrived. She found refuge in a makeshift bomb shelter with her relatives outside of Kyiv.

“We’re seeking to both support the Ukrainian film industry, as well as to offer North American audiences an eye-opening window into a world most can’t imagine,” said Film Movement. “As tragic and unsettling visions of war in Ukraine flash across our screens, hearts are heavy and minds are curious as to what life must be like during wartime,” added the distribution company.

“Donbass,” meanwhile, is a satirical film directed by outspoken Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa which opened Cannes’ Un Certain Regard in 2018 and won a prize. Divided in 13 chapters, the movie shows the complexities of the situation in Donbass, which is caught between an open armed conflict and killings and robberies perpetrated by separatist gangs. “Donbass” will have its North American premiere at New York’s IFC Center on April 8. Loznitsa recently spoke to Variety against the systematic boycott of Russian films.

The third title acquired by Film Movement, “The Earth Is Blue as an Orange,” is helmed by Iryna Tsilyk who won the directing award at Sundance in 2020. The documentary follows a single mother, Anna, and her four children as they document their lives under siege in Donbass.

“We had recently premiered ‘Bad Roads’ and ‘Donbass’ on our streaming platform, Film Movement Plus, and we were all transfixed by the powerful stories captured on film of life in the eastern Ukrainian war zone – especially as news of impending conflict grew by the day,” said Film Movement’s president Michael Rosenberg.

Rosenberg said that “when Russia invaded was last week, (the company) felt it of great importance that these films be made more widely available.”

“While Film Movement’s mission is to unearth undiscovered filmmaking talent from around the world It’s currently the voices of Ukraine which should now be echoing the loudest,” added the executive.

Film Movement is planning theatrical and educational screenings for these films, and will be rolling them out on home entertainment and digital platforms. The announcement was made by Michael Rosenberg, president of Film Movement, who negotiated rights on behalf of the company with Anna Krupnova, managing director of Reason8 Films (“Bad Roads”), Lucero Garzon of Pyramide International (“Donbass”) and Catherin LeClef of CAT & Docs (“The Earth Is Blue as an Orange”).

Aside from these acquisitions, Film Movement has also picked up titles including Asghar Farhadi’s first two films, “Dancing in the Dust” and “Beautiful City,” as well as Ang Lee’s “Pushing Hands.”