Runtime: 75 minutes
Director/Writer: Iryna Tsilyk
By Joan Amenn
Amid shelled out buildings riddled with bullet holes, a young girl photographs her boyfriend skateboarding. Welcome to Ukraine, where the local people struggle to maintain a sense of normalcy even as they are constantly in danger from a war that never seems to end. Part of that normalcy for one family is a love of movies, as “The Earth is Blue as an Orange” (2020) shows us. Nominated for the Documentary Competition Award at Seattle International Film Festival this year, “The Earth is Blue as an Orange” is quietly devastating.
Myroslava Trofymchuk dreams of being a filmmaker and enlists her whole family as her cast and crew for her latest project. Her mom Anna is completely supportive of her efforts and their relationship is so close and loving. This contrasts with a missing father who apparently does not think his daughter’s high school graduation worth attending. At any time, this would be reprehensible behavior, but with a war threatening his family’s safety it is really horrifying that Myroslava’s father has nothing to do with his four children. Anna confesses she keeps the family where they are because they are near her parents and sister and they are all she has for support. When they are not practicing ducking in hallways or climbing down into a basement shelter as part of a bombing drill, they work on their little film together. This coping mechanism helps the siblings stay distracted and also lands Myroslava a scholarship to a university. Life continues in Ukraine much like it does everywhere else, if you can overlook the army trucks that routinely patrol the neighborhoods.
Director Iryna Tsilyk is amazing in how she portrays the monotony of life within earshot of an ongoing battle. There is the continuous “boom” of shells being launched, the endless waiting for food rations to be distributed and the long days keeping children indoors for fear of stray bullets outside. The little brothers who recite their scripted parts for the camera are so innocent it tears at the viewer’ heart to think of them being in harm’s way. The recent news of how Russia has increased its presence along its border with Ukraine makes “The Earth is Blue like an Orange” even more poignant. This little family wins over the audience with their obvious love for each other and for filmmaking and we want to believe they will survive the threats to themselves and their country.