Documentary on Ukraine, "Light from the East," to be screened in New York

NEW YORK - On the eve of the 15th anniversary of Ukraine's independence, a new documentary film, "Light from the East," about an American acting troupe's tour of Ukraine during the August 1991 putsch that dissolved the Soviet Union, will premiere in New York City at the Pioneer Theater on May 11-17.

The 72-minute feature-length film, written and directed by Amy Grappell, and produced by Ms. Grappell and Christian Moore, follows the Yara Arts Group of New York's La Mama Theater to Kyiv in the summer of 1991, where the ensemble stages a seminal joint Ukrainian-American production of a play about the Ukrainian avant-garde theater director Les Kurbas.

The play, also called "Light from the East," focuses on Kurbas' revolutionary life and work, and his murder by Stalin in the purges of 1937. Against this backdrop, the American actors witness the overthrow of the Kremlin by a military coup and Ukraine's declaration of independence.

"Light from the East" was filmed during the region's massive political changes in 1991. The film is in English and Ukrainian, with English-language subtitles. Film Threat said of the film: "Not only a journey of expression, but also that of freedom, change and new lives shedding themselves of the old ones. In this case, it's about the end of being chained to the principles of the Soviet Union." Director Richard Linklater ("Before Sunset," "School of Rock") said, "Personal, political, historical ... I loved it."

Ms. Grappell said, "because I believe, as the diary of Les Kurbas reads - that 'art is where the humanity becomes manifest; it's where our true selves converse with one another' - I have aimed to create a film that is more a lyrical meditation than a traditional documentary. Like a poem can capture the essence of a complex issue through vivid imagery and evocative language, it is my hope the 'Light from the East' will examine the nature of freedom in a changing world through the depth of its characters and the power of its images."

The film has been screened at South by Southwest Film Festival 2005, IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival - Amsterdam) 2005, Austin Film Society Doc Tour 2005 and at Harvard University (2005). It will have its New York premiere while screening as part of the Brave New Europe: new films from and about Central and Eastern Europe series at the Pioneer Theater, East Third Street between avenues A and B, on May 11-17 at 9 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in advance at, or by calling 800-595-4849.

The Brooklyn Ukrainian Group and the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America will sponsor an evening with Ms. Grappell and a screening of "Light from the East" on Tuesday, May 16, at 9 p.m. For discounted tickets contact the UCCA, 212-228-6840.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, April 30, 2006, No. 18, Vol. LXXIV

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