By Amanda Gilmore
Its July 2014, Irka (Oxana Cherkashyna) and Tolik (Sergey Shadrin) live in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine near the Russian border. The region was disputed territory in the early days of the Donbas war. As they anxiously anticipate the birth of their first child, the crash of flight MH17 elevates tensions in their village.
This is one of the many films at this year’s Festival that is timely. As each day goes by, we hear more about the escalating tensions on the Ukraine-Russian border. Then comes this film centering on the matter, but set a few years back. Writer-Director Maryna Er Gorbach’s skillful direction allows for demanding takes. We watch as a bomb hits Irka and Tolik’s house, then we take a long pan through the remainder of the home and the damage left behind. This gives the Film a feeling of theatre, a minute-by-minute account of what our characters are living. Making this a film that is relevant and it feels immediate through its artistry.
At the heart of KLONDIKE is its message of resilience in the most extreme circumstances. Gorbach has dedicated the film to women and it’s clear why. Irka is the one character who attempts to stay out of the forbidding tension surrounding her home, however, she’s forced to live within it. She does all this with the added pressure of carrying her first-born child. Cherkashyna is outstanding and captures the tenacity of Ikra. With limited dialogue and long-takes Cherkashyna shines with subtle, restrained actions that speak volumes.
KLONDIKE is heartbreaking film carried by a powerful performance at its center.
KLONDIKE screens virtually at Sundance:
Premiere: Jan. 21 at 2:15PM EST
Second Screening: Jan. 23 at 10AM EST (available for 24hrs)