Navigating the emotional turmoil of waiting for life to begin while hanging around with classmates - a radical, authentic, and sensitive insight into the unsettling feeling of being young and an inside perspective on Ukrainian youth.
Curator of the program 'Focus: Ukraine–Canada' Pat Mullen:
Stop-Zemlia marks an assured feature dramatic debut for director Kateryna Gornostai. The film opens an authentic window into the lives of contemporary students as they navigate the awkwardness of first love, selfie culture, and an increasingly uncertain future. The verité-style cinematography by Oleksandr Roshchyn flows freely around the classroom and schoolyard as the film observes the students coming of age across their penultimate school year. Gornostai’s documentary roots invite a naturalistic style that observes the students as they undergo personal, spiritual, and sexual awakenings. Stop-Zemlia blurs fiction and non-fiction as Gornostai employs a cast of non-professional newcomers to inject the film with the very hopes and anxieties they experience daily, particularly Maria Fedorchenko as Masha, the young woman who quietly asserts herself at the center of Goronstai’s story. The title refers to a direction that the students call during a schoolyard game, but it’s also a bittersweet cry for the fleeting nature of youth. Stop-Zemlia is an invigorating introduction to Ukraine’s future – both in front of the camera and behind it.