Family Portrait in Black and White

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“A rich observational portrait of a woman who wants to save the children from an unjust world – her way.” — Lynne Fernie, Hot Docs

Director: Julia Ivanova
Year: 2011
Country: Canada
Running time: 99 mins

Screenplay/Editor: Julia Ivanova
Producer: Boris Ivanov
Photography: Julia Ivanova, Stanislav Shakhov
Music: Boris Sichon
In Russian, Ukrainian and Italian, with English subtitles
HDCAM

With: Olga Nenya, Kiril, Roman, Sashka, Sylvia, Anya, Andrey, Maxim

Festivals: Sundance, Vancouver, Amsterdam Documentary 2011

“You, me, he, she. We make a happy family!” Olga Nenya and her family of 23 foster children, 17 of whom are of mixed-race heritage, joyfully sing. The kids know little about the biological parents who abandoned them in orphanages. For Olga the reason they did so is simple: in the Ukraine, white supremacists are everywhere: "most grandmothers would be horrified if an unwed daughter brought home a black child”; whereas this redoubtable, loving mama, single-handedly raising her brood in a rural village populated by goats and drunks, thinks these unwanted kids are ‘diamonds’. The Ukraine needs such treasures – and the big-hearted ‘leader’ is determined to give them a nest. Julia Ivanova’s engrossing documentary watches over three years and sees a classic struggle evolve. Well equipped to nurture the weak, Olga is not so adept at nurturing the strong. As children grow into teenagers, her Soviet-era approach to discipline, physical labour and collective responsibility puts her at loggerheads with the brightest of her charges. — SR/BG

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