[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
Review of Sergey Bukovsky's Holodomor Documentary 'The Living' by M. Siriol Colley
The film Documentary, The Living covers the tragic period of history in Ukraine from 1932 -1933 with delicacy, gentle humour and sympathy. The film is based on the observations of Gareth Jones, a young Welsh journalist, and through it is woven the candid accounts, casually caught in the camera, of witnesses, now well into their 80’s who survived the Great Famine. The naturalness of their evidence, some given with humour, lightens the sadness of the production. The lines on their care-worn faces are captured beautifully by the camera and these display the evidence of a harsh and bitter life. The suffering they saw of death, of the appropriation of their food and destruction of their homes is beyond belief. Despite this many have remained cheerful. Life remains hard for the peasants for they still live in humble circumstances, but, though poor they seem content with their present lot.
The dialogue is told through the eyes of Gareth, and the diaries are read by his great-nephew, Nigel Colley. This is cleverly done as Nigel rarely looks directly into the camera, but shots are taken from different angles which lessens the tedium of direct eye contact by the viewer.
Gareth, on the eve of his thirtieth birthday, was tragically murdered after being captured by bandits in 1935, two years later, while investigating the Japanese situation in Inner Mongolia. He had had a remarkable and extremely full life before his premature death. Shots are taken from archival material carefully and patiently researched reminding the viewer that he had worked for the former wartime Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, that he had been a spectator to the Depression in the 1930’s in America, and prophetically described, that of his flight with the newly appointed Chancellor of Germany, Adolph Hitler. Lighter touches are photos of Gareth’s student days and of him standing behind President Hoover in the White House. As well there are archival shots presumably from Soviet sources of a propaganda nature.
The film commences quietly with President Yushchenko walking pensively with his daughter across barren land looking at the site of his forbears burial places; those who died in the Great Famine. It ends with an emptiness left by the disappearance of the last eyewitnesses implying that there will soon be no one left to recall the horrors of the Holodomor, the death by starvation.
I myself am delighted by the portrayal of my uncle Gareth. Just as the Holodomor was the forgotten man-made famine of the 20th century, so was Gareth quietly air-brushed from that period of history.
The whole film has been filmed and condensed from a vast amount of material, both archival and verbal by the brilliance of the director, Serhiy Bukovsky into one and a quarter hour. Serhiy has put his heart and soul into the production. Mark Edwards, the producer, with exceptional thoroughness has been true in every way, both in his portrayal of the man and the description of Gareth’s colourful life. I know Mark is captivated by the sad, but enthralling story of Gareth Jones’ brief life.
It was my desire to have Gareth recognized in his beloved country, Wales. To my astonishment, but delight he is revered in Ukraine and soon, I hope will be known in the United States. The film has achieved my ambition and also Nigel’s. Perhaps one day his fame will be world-wide.
Thank you Serhiy Bukovsky, Victoria Bodnar and Mark Edwards for making this possible. To me it is the fruition of our long aspiration to have Gareth remembered.
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Original Research, Content & Site Design by Nigel Linsan Colley. Copyright © 2001-17 All Rights Reserved Original document transcriptions by M.S. Colley.Click here for Legal Notices. For all further details email: Nigel Colley or Tel: (+44) 0796 303 8888