SCREENING A RISING FURY (2022, UKRAINE) AT UNIVERSITY PARK A Talk. A documentary Film. A fundraiser. A Master Class on Filmmaking
On Thursday, September 14, the screening of a unique Ukrainian documentary film A Rising Fury (2022, Ukraine) took place at The State Theatre, University Park, followed by a master class on filming in hostile environments for the students in Film and Media Studies, Bellisario College (class of Catharine Axley). The State Theatre distributed 123 tickets (free for sponsoring departments), and the audience fitting 544 seats appeared half full, at least from the stage: a remarkable success considering the modest advertising campaign.
A Rising Fury documents nine years of Russia’s war against Ukraine, from the Revolution of Dignity on the Maidan Square of Independence in Kyiv in 2013-2014, Russian annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea and part of Donbas in 2014, up to and including Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, with several trips to the front lines. The film director Lesya Kalynska (US-Ukraine) and producer T. J. Collins (US) were present during the Q&A session. The film was co-produced by Jonathan Borge Lie (Norway) and co-directed by Ruslan Batytsky (Ukraine).
The film was selected for 11 international festivals and received multiple awards, the latest being “Best Documentary,” “Best Film Director, and “Top Jury Award” at the Melbourn International Film Festival in Australia.
Left to right: Yelena Zotova, Lesya Kalynska, T. J. Collins, and State College Mayor Ezra Nanes opening the screening of A Rising Fury at The State Theatre, University Park, September 14, 2023. Photo credit: Yuliya Ladygina.
The proceeds from the ticket sales and direct donations are being split between two Ukrainian charities that make a difference: Dignitas Fund (Litai initiative) to help rehabilitate the wounded Ukrainian defenders, and Save Ukraine Foundation, to help return kidnapped Ukrainian children from Russia and accommodate the Ukrainian families affected by Russia’s war.
State College Mayor Ezra Nanes delivered an address to the audience before the screening, calling on them to stand firmly with Ukraine in its fight for freedom and democracy.
The filmmakers also attended Dr. Snyder’s talk on the Dilemmas of Democracy at The State Theatre on Monday, September 18, and engaged in a brief conversation with him. Both Snyder and Kalynska travelled from Ukraine just a few days ago and wore vyshyvankas, the embroidered Ukrainian national shorts, to the event. “I held back tears when [Dr. Snyder] spoke about Ukraine’s existential battle,” Kalynska reported.
This screening and film workshop was spearheaded by Dr. Yelena Zotova, GSLL, and sponsored by the Woskob Endowement for Ukrainian Studies, The Penn State Ukrainian Society, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, Department of Film and Media Studies, Bellisario College of Communication, Department of Journalism, Bellisario College of Communications, Humanities Institute, the Center for Global Studies, and Global and International Studies Program. The filmmakers thank Dr. Michael Naydan, Dr. Carrie Jackson, Dr. Maura Shea, Dr. Yulia Ladygina, Dr. Catherine Axley, Dr. John Affleck, Dr. John Christman, Dr. Krista Brune, Dr. Kaitlin Lovejoy, the student President of the Penn State Ukrainian Society Ihor Latsanych, GSLL staff William Whitesmith, and many more people who made this event possible.
Students readily provided their feedback, oral and written, to the film and class, commenting on what they have learned. Prior to watching the film, many students did not know that Crimea and Donbas were parts of Ukraine, and that the war lasts almost ten years by now. As one student put it, the experience of watching the film was “tough but real.”
Kalynska and Collins greatly enjoyed their stay at the University Park, finding the campus beautiful and the overall atmosphere inspiring. They were pleased to meet with multiple faculty members and students for meals, discussions, and brainstorming sessions. The topic that came up the most was that of the future: the future of Ukraine, the United States, and the world. “They asked how to stop Russia, how to stop this war.” Kalynska said. The filmmakers emphasized the importance of communicating with the Penn State students “as they are the people who will decide the world’s future.”
The filmmakers of A Rising Fury admire the Penn State campus pond. Photo credit: Lesya Kalynska