By Anna Kryukova
On September 23, CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies hosted a film screening and discussion event with Yuriy Gruzinov, a film director who created a series of documentary short films about the Ukrainian Revolution.
The discussion was organized by Rafal Szczurowski, an academic adviser at CUNY Baccalaureate, and moderated by Iryna Vushko, a Professor of History at Hunter College.
This event was part of the Academic Conference Series at the CUNY Graduate Center, a series of events that brings a variety of speakers to explore political, social, and economic challenges.
Gruzinov screened a series of films that he created with crewmembers of Babylon’13 and the evening culminated with a Q&A session from the audience.
Gruzimov is a cinematographer and one of the founders of Babylon’13, a documentary project dedicated to showcasing the unfolding of events during Ukrainian Revolution.
Babylon’13 began when a group of young filmmakers took an initiative to start filming events in Maidan, Kiev when civil protests broke out in November of 2013. Their work marks the importance of independent journalism in times of turmoil because in the beginning no news channel was covering the events as they were happening.
Gruzimov screened films that showed the first death in Maidan, a moment that is said to be one of the points that mark the point when civil protests turned into a revolution. Babylon’13 videos went viral on the Internet in November 2013 and since then they have been incorporated into a series titled “Winter that has changed us all” and other projects.
Some of the films that Gruzinov screened at the evening were “The First Death,” “Differences In Donetsk,” “Revolutionary Fuel,” “Battle On Grushevskogo #4,″and “Hand Gun,” as well as some others.
The films that Gruzinov screened at the event were focused on the events that were going on from the perspective of Ukrainian citizens. The films had a powerful impact but a lot of the meaning was lost because of the biased perspective.
Gruzinov commented at the end of the event that there are films that are currently in postproduction that show a more well rounded story.
The screening was followed by a discussion where Gruzinov answered questions from the audience. The discussion covered political insights, Gruzinov’s experience as a filmmaker in the turmoil zone, and his views on the situation.
Gruzinov shared an experience when he and another crewmember were captured and held while filming a documentary about crimes. He said that when they were held captive, they were blind folded in the basement and one of the guards put a gun to his crewmembers head and said, “’I have a gun, but your camera is stronger than my gun.’”
The message was clear, there is tremendous power in propaganda and journalism during times of turmoil.
In the opening remarks, Rafal Szczurowski said, “At recent opinion poll, participants were asked to name important figures in Ukrainian history. When the results were calculated, most of these figures are still alive.
This got me thinking that the Ukrainian identity, or collective conscienceless, is in the process of creation. And the events [shown] today can tell us about the colossal impact in that process.” Babylon’13 plays an important role in documenting the creation of a new collective identity in Ukraine.
This event was free and open to public at the CUNY Graduate Center and it part of an effort by the Academic Conference Series to bring diverse speakers and engage in discussion about current events.