Cinema in the Shadow of Empire
This spring, the Nanovic film series turns its focus to Ukraine. Curated by Nanovic Faculty Fellow-elect Tetyana Shlikhar, Ukrainian film scholar and assistant teaching professor of Russian, the series focuses on works created by Ukrainian filmmakers over the past five years, during what one could call an in-between period — after Russia’s 2014 invasion and illegal annexation of Crimea, and before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. While life flourished in parts of Ukraine during this time, the specter of a failed empire still loomed to the east.
In Putin’s more than two decades in power, Russia’s geopolitical strength and imperial ambitions have been at the center of their political line — military incursions into neighboring countries reasserted old territorial claims and aspirations to restore former Soviet spheres of influence. Russian identity remains imperial, despite the disintegration of the Soviet Union more than 30 years ago, a time of Ukrainian independence and the rebuilding of its national identity.
Films featured in the Nanovic spring series will explore this Ukrainian identity. The films will also contribute to a larger conversation of how post-Soviet cinema revives tropes and aesthetic tendencies of earlier periods, such as stark depictions of the Self and Other, spiritual superiority, and monumentalism, as well as updates them for a contemporary context. It is in this context that our new world takes shape — what should we make of it and how do Ukrainian filmmakers attempt to alter its axis?