The Earth is Blue as an Orange | Focus on Ukraine

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THE EARTH IS AS BLUE AS AN ORANGE Ukraine, Lithuania | Documentary

Sundance Film Festival 2020- World Cinema Documentary Directing Award Winner Iryna Tsilyk

Krasnohorivka: a town on the front lines of the war-torn region of Eastern Ukraine. When poet/filmmaker Iryna Tsilyk first visits the Trofymchuk-Gladky family home, she is surprised by what she finds: while the outside world is made up of bombings and chaos, single mother Anna and her four children are managing to keep their home as a safe haven, full of life and full of light. Every member of the family has a passion for cinema, so it feels natural for them to shoot a film inspired by their own life during a time of war. The creative process raises the question of what kind of impact cinema might have during times of disaster, and how to picture war through the camera’s lens. For Anna and the children, transforming trauma into a work of art is the ultimate way to stay human.

NR, the film runs 73 minutes. In Russian and Ukrainian w/subtitles.

THE EARTH IS BLUE AS AN ORANGE | Writer/Director Iryna Tsilyk

During the last two years my attitude to this film changed many times.

Everything started at a cinema camp for teenagers in Ukraine. Sponsored in part by
the cultural and humanitarian initiative, Yellow Bus, the cinema camp opens doors
to the parallel world of cinema for kids. The camps sit predominantly in the small
towns of the frontline zone in the Donbas region.

I was one of the mentors in the camp in Avdiivka, a town that is located on the line
of separation, and is the site of the deadliest fighting in the ongoing War. At our
cinema camp, the students wrote a script and filmed it in one week while we
listened to the war continuing just outside, every day.

At the end of the session, one of the camp teenagers invited my Director of
Photography, Viacheslav Tsvietkov, our sound engineer Iryna Okhota, and myself to
her family home in Krasnohorivka, in the “red zone” aka the front line.

I immediately fell in love with this family, their home and their world. I turned to
Viacheslav and said, “I have a strong feeling we could make a movie here”.

For years, working as a poet, I used to come to Donbas, in the front line zone. My
husband was a soldier in The Armed Forces of Ukraine. My previous films also
covered women fighting during war (“Tayra” and “Kid” in the cinemaalmanac
Invisible Battalion, about women in combat during war). So, Avdiivka was not new
to me.

However, when the cinema camp kids were being shown scenes from Bertolucci’s
“The Last Emperor”, and shelling was going on right outside but not one of them
paid any attention to the sounds that was new, that I didn’t expect.

These same kids, when they were choosing locations to film in for their script, chose
nearby mine fields. There they were, kids dancing close to minefields, full of life.

It was the same with the family in Krasnohorivka. Because being a civilian in war is
surreal enough, but to have gotten used to war is something else completely. What
was for me, as a war tourist, quite surreal, was for them simply daily life.

The first thing we saw in Krasnohorivka was what a brave and funny family they
were, in the midst of war. That’s the first film I thought I was making.

Then, in workshops and labs across Europe as I started to show rough cuts and raw
footage, it was repeatedly mentioned that it was the film within the film that was
something quite special. When the family had decided to make the short film, some
kind of surreal journey had unexpectedly began for all of us.

When the family sat down to interview each other, we experienced a deep emotional
shift. I had the feeling some masks were coming off. We all, the family and film team,
started to trust each other in this private world we shared. It gave me a huge feeling
of responsibility for both the film and the family.

The title, THE EARTH IS BLUE AS AN ORANGE, is a quote from a poem about love
between a man and woman, but it is also about things that could not be combined
together and yet are. We have felt this way throughout our journey of this film.

Anna, the mother, is at the core of the story; she is the real director. She is the one
who will choose how her children get through this. At one point I had thought this
was a film about kids, but quite late I realized I was wrong it was really about her.

Anna is the leader of the family; the father is out of sight because there is nothing to
show, he has no impact on the family. It’s as Anna says, “I am the father and the
mother”. She is so strong, and has such amazing emotional power she convinces you
everything will be okay.

“I’ve realized recently that I try to convey the same themes in so much of my work,
that of home as a safe haven. You can see this most clearly in one of my short fiction
films called Home” You can kill the person, but not their sense of home, not the
sense of it they have in their heart.

I’ve come to the conclusion I also have war trauma everything I do in my creative
work over the last 6 years has to do with this war.

I choose to use family in my films as a standin for identity. Effectively, I’m doing
the same thing as my characters we film to escape.