The 2021 Ukranian Film Festival, Freedom on Screen, opened in London on Monday.  

The festival showcases the best new documentaries and feature films from Ukrainian cinema, with in-person and online screenings available to audiences across the UK. 

“At such an important time for Ukraine, it’s wonderful to be able to share these important works,” said Dr Olesya Khromeychuk, Director of the Ukrainian Institute London.

Dr Olesya Khromeychuk welcomes guests at the festival opening night

The festival got underway on Monday night at Bertha Dochouse cinema in Bloomsbury, with an in-person screening of This Rain Will Never Stop (2020).  

The award-winning documentary follows a Kurdish family including 20-year-old Andriy, who flees war in Syria to start a new life in eastern Ukraine, only to be caught up in another military conflict. 

The film was followed by a live Q&A featuring Alina Horlova, the filmmaker, and Dr Kamran Matin, an academic from Sussex University.

Horlova, who joined the panel via Zoom, said her aim had been to make a film she would enjoy as a viewer, whilst exploring conflict, belonging and the nation-state.

Alina Horlova, Director of the documentary This Rain Will Never Stop (2020), participating in the live Q&A panel via Zoom, also featuring Dr Kamran Matin and moderated by Olesya Khromeychuk

“Is it possible to stop war?”

The lively discussion centred around questions of statelessness, storytelling, and universality, as well as parallels between Kurdish and Ukranian experiences. 

Kamran Matin said the film portrayed the individual’s desire “to belong to something bigger than him or herself,” which is especially crucial for those who are displaced. 

Between 22 November and 6 December 2021, This Rain Will Never Stop and other films will be available to stream for free online at the film festival’s web platform, for anyone in the UK. 

Other titles being presented during the festival include Natalya Vorozhbit’s Bad Roads (2020), and the comedy My Thoughts Are Silent (2019) by Antonio Lukich. 

This year marks 30 years of independence for the post-Soviet state, and the festival celebrates “a spirit of creative freedom in contemporary Ukrainian cinema”.  

The opening of the festival also comes immediately after Ukraine’s Day of Dignity and Freedom (November 21), which recognises the 2013-14 Euromaidan protests in Kyiv.  

Guests leave after the festival’s first in-person screening and live Q&A session, at Bertha Dochouse, Bloomsbury

The festival is organised by Cambridge Ukrainian Studies & the Ukrainian Institute London, who also worked in partnership to select the films for this year’s program.

The festival’s closing in-person screening will be on 6 December 2021 at Cine Lumiere, South Kensington – tickets are available here.