Speeches and Interviews
Remarks for Opening of American “Independence” Film Festival
Ambassador John F. Tefft
November 17, 2011
I want to welcome all of you to “the Independence Festival” -- the first American Film Festival devoted to showcasing new US “indie” and documentary films. Thanks to Aurora Films, the American company Monsanto, Kyiv Theater and our many partners for this exciting evening.
“Independence” is the theme of this year’s festival. All the films you’ll be able to see over the next three days explore that idea in one way or another. Those of you who know America well know that almost all great American characters in films -- as in literature -- are first and foremost individuals, independent types, struggling against the prevailing view. Our heroes often end up fighting alone -- following their own dream or vision or sense of right or wrong. Independence is an attitude. And it is that attitude we celebrate with this festival.
Over the next few days the films we are showing not only explore very independent ideas, but they are in themselves often acts of individual “heroism,” as independent filmmakers struggle often to find a way to make a film, get it financed and get it to an audience. The five directors we have as guests of the festival this year each have their own tale of how they got their film made – and how they fought to find a way to say what they felt needed saying.
We are proud that American films are so successful throughout the world. Our blockbusters and popular films show in theaters all over the globe. But you can’t know what’s really happening in American film today without seeing the explosion of creativity in indie and documentary films in the last years. We wanted to bring some of this year’s excellent independent and documentary films to Kyiv – those great films that don’t often make it to theaters here.
We are also happy to highlight the Ukrainian connection. Tonight’s film Higher Ground is by academy award nominated actor Vera Farmiga, who grew up in a tight-knit Ukrainian-American community in the U.S. This is her directorial debut. Ukrainian-born Lisa Cholodenko directed The Kids are Alright which was nominated for four Academy Awards. We have Ukrainian-American documentary director Roxy Toporvych presenting her film Folk! – a delightful look at Ukrainian dancers in the U.S. I also want to thank Ella Shytka, a Ukrainian filmmaker who curated the documentary program. Thanks also to film producer Eugene Efuni for setting up a series of workshops as part of the festival, sharing his experience with Ukrainian-American co-productions – highlighting some of the partnerships that are already underway here between Ukrainian and American film producers.
Steven Spielberg, a great American filmmaker with a Ukrainian connection – his grandfather and grandmother hailed from here -- said famously that as a filmmaker he “dreamed for a living.”
I want to thank you all for coming tonight to this first festival – and hope you enjoy watching some of these new “indie” dreams.