Ukrainian Breakfast at TIFF

Ukrainian directors and producers at Luma Restaurant

Daria Bajus for New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

The Toronto International Film Festival kicked off the month in full force with guests arriving from all over the world. On Friday, September 6th, Ukrainian directors and producers gathered at Luma Restaurant at the TIFF Bell Lightbox to celebrate the co-production treaty between Ukraine and Canada.

The second annual “Breakfast at TIFF”, hosted by the Ukrainian State Film Agency and the Igor Iankovskyi Foundation, allowed guests to network with Ukrainian filmmakers and industry professionals. In anticipation of the festival, guests mingled with each other while enjoying an array of breakfast choices that ranged from pastries to varenyky. A true Ukrainian breakfast. The program began with a few words from key speakers as well as a preview of trailers from three of the movies being screened this year: “Anna,” “The Painted Bird,” and “Atlantis.”

Andriy Shevchenko, Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada, began the event with a story of encouragement.

“When you come to Canada and go to Saskatchewan or Manitoba, at some point you hear about this very special sort of grain called Red Fife,” he said. “This grain was brought by first Ukrainian pioneers who survived traveling across the ocean and very cold winters in the prairies. This tells us something about Canadian Ukrainian resilience. It explains how Ukraine is becoming a very robust cinema nation even during the days of the war.”

Svitlana Iankovska, co-founder of the Iankovskyi Foundation, emphasized that their main goal is to support Ukrainian filmmakers, actors, producers, directors, and bring them to the world’s best events of the film industry.

“Our country has been through very difficult changes recently and our film industry has been to the lowest point in history since the beginning of the 20th century,” she said. “But thanks to the very enthusiastic people, to our foundation and to the amount of energy that young producers are putting towards their dreams, we are seeing all of our films in major A-list festivals. We are very proud that we are putting our efforts and hands into whatever is happening.”

Olga Beskhmelnytsina, producer of the short film “Anna,” is a first timer in Toronto. The film represents the life of an aging single mother who is desperate for a change. She is enticed by a radio advertisement where she goes to party with a group of American men who are touring the country. Here she is confronted with the realities of old age and with the American men’s real intentions.

Beskhmelnytsina explained why visiting Toronto is such a big deal to her.

“It’s really important to understand how the audience here in Canada, where the Ukrainian diaspora is so big, will watch this film. We’ve had different feedback about this project, good and bad, but it’s a really important theme that we needed to talk about,” she said.

With production experience in different European countries, she is looking forward to starting communications about real projects here.

Dennis Ivanov, CEO of Arthouse Traffic Film Company, as well as distributor, producer and organizer of film festivals, described TIFF as one of the most important film festivals in North America.

“It has recently become a competitor to the Cannes Film Festival and other events that have existed for half a century,” he said. “They have excellent taste and a very dynamic industry. It’s like new territory for us and it’s incredible to be pioneering this film industry and trying to force some activism in mutual co-production.”

With the co-production treaty between Canada and Ukraine in place, Ivanov believes it is now a producer’s job to find a good story that unites Ukraine and Canada.

“The Ukrainian film industry is very dynamic, and we have a lot of talent. I think Ukraine is under-discovered even by the people who are representing the Ukrainian diaspora and work in the film industry,” he explained. For Ivanov, the first step is connecting the two countries.

“We are happy that people are coming to talk to each other. With a new agreement, we make new plans for the future,” said Svitlana Iankovska. “I hope we’re going to see new films in Toronto, Ukraine and everywhere else.”