Anchor Staff Writer
Rhode Island College’s Ukrainian film series started on April 4 with a screening of Kateryna Gornostai’s “Stop-Zemlia,” a beautifully touching coming-of-age film. The film was fantastic, and the following conversation with Gornostai made week one of the series all the more worth attending.
Released in 2021, “Stop-Zemlia” follows high school seniors Masha, Yana and Senia. They deal with the complex emotions and social situations that come with being a teenager in an intense world. The trio supports each other through whichever challenges come their way, whether that involves their fears about the future or longing for a relationship that might not even start. Their unconditional love and support gives each of them a sense of belonging that helps them cope with both the world around them and their own overwhelming emotions.
Inspired by Gornostai’s teenage experience, “Stop-Zemlia” is deeply personal. I’ve never seen the modern teenage experience better represented on screen. I see parts of myself and my friends in each of the characters; their flaws, insecurities and feelings are my own, and I felt a sort of solidarity while watching them deal with many of the awkward situations I’ve dealt with in the past.
From the realistic storylines to the immersive, dreamlike visuals, every detail feels perfectly curated and surprisingly comforting, like someone finally understands how it feels to be in a transitional stage of life. Gornostai said that this was her goal in making the film, which she undoubtedly achieved.
One of the most notable aspects of “Stop-Zemlia” is its cast, composed of mostly young, less professionally-experienced actors. Being so used to seeing actors in their mid to late twenties starring as high school seniors, I was pleasantly surprised to see an appropriately-aged cast. Gornostai sought out these younger actors, as they can bring their experience into their performance. Without the charming bunch,“Stop-Zemlia” would lose its authenticity and charm.
The Ukrainian film series is a delight. Screenings are on Tuesdays and Zoom sessions with directors are on Thursdays. This series will expose you to films you would never think to seek out in your own time. Dr. Vincent Bohlinger, director of RIC’s Film Studies Program, also offered Ukrainian candies to attendees, which was an unexpected plus.
The series continues on Tuesday, April 18 with a screening of Iryna Tsilyk’s “The Earth Is Blue as an Orange,” a documentary about the war in Ukraine told from a Ukrainian family’s perspective. It ends on Thursday, April 20 with a Zoom session with Tsilyk.