2011 Sundance Docs in Focus: FAMILY PORTRAIT IN BLACK & WHITE

The next film in the World Cinema Documentary Competition comes from Canada – Julia Ivanova’s exploration of an unusually large Ukrainian foster family, FAMILY PORTRAIT IN BLACK & WHITE.

Sundance Program Description:

In a Ukrainian village, big-hearted, formidable Olga Nenya single-handedly raises 23 foster children. Sixteen are the biracial offspring of visiting African students and Ukrainian women, who, living in a country of blue-eyed blondes that’s racked with endemic racism, often see no choice but to abandon their babies. And that’s where Olga comes in.

FAMILY PORTRAIT IN BLACK & WHITE charts the rhythms of Olga’s hectic household, rife with rambunctious kids and goats. As diverse dramas unfold among the brood—a high-schooler struggling to transcend his plight through education, a boy longing to reunite with his Ugandan father, and a child courted for Italian adoption—Olga reveals herself to be loving and protective, but also narrow-minded and controlling. A product of communist ideology, she favors collective duty over individual freedom. It’s this philosophy that gives the orphans the rich sense of belonging they ache for, as well as cause for rebellion and distrust, in this lyrical, sometimes gut-wrenching tale about the meaning of “Mama,” “family,” and “nation.”

Some Background:
Ivanova and her brother, Producer Boris Ivanov, are Russian-born Canadian documentarians. A number of their previous projects have seen them return to their Russian roots or are based in other former Soviet republics. FAMILY PORTRAIT IN BLACK & WHITE is not their first film to deal with non-traditional families – 2008’s FATHERHOOD DREAMS followed a number of gay men in their varied paths to starting families.

Why You Should Watch:
While audiences might find the idea of keeping track of two dozen characters as chaotic as the household described above, Ivanova judiciously focuses her lens on a handful of key members of Olga’s clan, with the remaining family members serving as supporting or background players. Their unique situation creates specific conflicts in some cases, but at the heart of the film is a universally understood dynamic of family unity, and, at times, dysfunction.

Screening Info:
For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph above. The film also has a website and Facebook page to keep interested audiences aware of upcoming screenings and other developments.


Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

2 responses to “2011 Sundance Docs in Focus: FAMILY PORTRAIT IN BLACK & WHITE

  1. kathleen cameron

    Amazing documentary. It stole my heart and you want to know more. What will happen to each child. Please let me know when a charity is set into place. Thank you for sharing this story with all its many layers.

  2. It doesn’t bother anyone that these children compare Olga to Stalin? It doesn’t bother anyone that they are not allowed to be adopted by families who live in more race accepting communities?

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