Country: Ukraine, France, Poland, Chile, Luxembourg, Germany Year: 2022 Running time: 100 min. Genre: drama Director: Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk Cast: Oleksandr Yatsentyuk, Stanislav Potiak, Solomiya Kyrylova (Leopolis Night), Olena Khokhlatkina (How is Katia?, I Work at the Cemetery), Myroslav Makoviychuk, Ivan Sharan

— The Directors' Fortnight (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs) Selection, Cannes Film Festival, 2022

— National Competition, Molodist Kyiv International Film Festival, 2022

— Palic Tower for Best Director and Special Mention, Palić European Film Festival, 2022

Western Ukraine, on the eve of a traditional carnival. Pamfir returns to his family after months of absence. Their love is so unconditional that when his only child starts a fire in the prayer house, Pamfir has no other choice but to reconnect with his troubled past to repair his son’s fault. He will be taken on a risky path with irreversible consequences.

Curator of the program 'Focus: Ukraine – United Kingdom' Rita Di Santo:

Like a modern fairy tale, Pamfir tells the story of Leonid (nicknamed Pamfir), a sort of gentle giant, an ex-smuggler trying to go straight, who will be sucked into a vortex of violence.

Located on the Romania border, Pamfir’s village Bukovina is in preparation for the visually arresting Malanka festival — a wild, pagan ritual populated by men of straw with garish, wooden faces. Leonid returns from Poland having promised Nazar, his 12-year-old son, that he will celebrate the carnival with him. But Leonid’s obscure past comes back to find him. 

It is a film full of suggestions, starting from the Ukrainian carnival, an ancestral rite that reconnects with nature through demoniac masks which transform those who wear them. There is a sense of tragedy looming throughout and moments that make you explode with emotions, that make you slip from your chair. It features well-drawn characters, and an incredible mis-en-scene. The first and last sequence leave you speechless, they enclose an entire world. They are genuinely priceless. The film transports you to a magical and mysterious time and place. Remarkable is the erotic scene when Leonid finds a moment of intimacy with his wife. We often see beautiful sex sequences in movies but there is more than sex here, there is desire, love, passion.

Bold and brave like its protagonist, Pamfir gorges on its imagery, with the final visual marker sending shivers down the spine. The heady colours and textures enhance some beautiful framing and imaginative scenarios. The forest could be a fairy-tale setting, just outside the village, as its inhabitants use horses and carts and the odd bicycle to get around (only the baddies have cars), while the fog can obscure motives. And then the faces of the actors, so realistic and natural. Oleksandr Yatsentyuk’s Leonid especially is a charismatic presence and has a voice that is a bullet straight to the heart.

Pamfir is an incredible debut, a masterful film with extended sequences that never lapse into boredom or inertia. On the contrary, they give us an incredibly dynamic film. Regardless of moments of reflection, some scenes get under the skin because they have enormous imaginative power. What distinguishes the film is its sense of atmosphere and tension, the way Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk takes you through, step by step, the small village as a microcosm of the contemporary world intoxicated with big-time crime. A world dominated by bullies, where honest people can only escape. The marvellous final scene is not a happy ending where everyone lives happily ever after, but a hopeful conclusion. The way to a better world is the power to dream and keep moving forward still. We look forward to more films by Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk.

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