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CPH:DOX Premieres ‘A Poem For Little People,’ Documentary Celebrating “Courage And Resilience Of Ordinary Ukrainians”

Less than two weeks after 20 Days in Mariupol won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, another important film about Ukraine has bowed on the world stage.

A Poem for Little People, directed by Ivan Sautkin, held its international premiere Thursday at CPH:DOX in Copenhagen. It screens again on Saturday. In cinéma vérité style, the film documents the most vulnerable people on front lines of the war in Ukraine, and the volunteers of an evacuation team who risk their lives to save them.

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“Through its two parallel plotlines, the film follows the exploits of a volunteer evacuation team in the front lines of Eastern Ukraine, led by young, precociously stoic Anton, as well as the wartime daily lives and unlikely friendship of two elderly women – pragmatic Zinaida and dreamy, starry-eyed Taisia – who decided to stay at their homes in the now de-occupied Chernihiv region,” according to a synopsis of the documentary. “While Anton faces the most visceral horrors of war on a daily basis during his team’s urgent, desperate attempts to rescue the most vulnerable, who are often reluctant or unwilling to leave, Zinaida and Taisia seek to pursue any forms of resistance within their power – from praying and writing poetry to hiding historic plaque and reporting intelligence to the Ukrainian military.”

'A Poem for Little People'
‘A Poem for Little People’

In a statement, Sautkin said, “At the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, I, like most of my colleagues, was confused.  Everything I was doing until that moment lost its value. The world of war is radically different from everything we are used to. My first reaction was to mobilize and pick up a gun, but I made the rational decision to pick up my camera.  I started with a series of short documentaries.  With their help, I discovered a new reality for myself.”

Sautkin continued, “After the de-occupation of the north of Ukraine, I went to the village where my old friend Zinaida Lukyanenko lives. I was interested in how she survived the difficult times and learned that during the occupation she did not sit idly by but helped our military.  I was struck by the courage of this woman and it was from her story that my film began. I keep in touch with my characters in the film, we also became close friends. I try to help their mission as much as I can and in the future, I plan to return to the frontline territory to work with them. This movie taught me many things. The most valuable experience is the ability to appreciate people regardless of their views and other things that distance us from each other.”

'A Poem for Little People'
'A Poem for Little People'

Producer Elena Saulich evacuated Ukraine, arriving in the U.K. when she was nine months pregnant (she recently celebrated the first birthday of her son, Marko). “We are honored to premiere our film at CPH:DOX,” she said. “The film celebrates the courage and resilience of ordinary Ukrainians in the face of an unjust war, as civilians of all ages refuse to back down.”

“Ukrainians had their world turned upside down over night,” observed co-producer Lisa Marie Russo. “A Poem for Little People reflects on notions of home, and why we all need and deserve a safe space to live as a basic human right. The film connects audiences with this universal concept and applauds Ukrainians as they continue to respond with creativity, grace and fortitude in unimaginable circumstances.”

'A Poem for Little People'
‘A Poem for Little People’

The documentary is a production of Babylon’13, in co-production with Nuline Kopija (Lithuania), Roastbeef Productions (U.K.) and Autofiction Films (U.K.). Babylon’13, an association of independent filmmakers, was formed in late 2013 at the beginning of Maidan Revolution in Kyiv that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, who was closely allied with the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to Maidan Revolution by annexing Crimea and fomenting a separatist rebellion in eastern areas of Ukraine – a prelude to his full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022.

A Poem for Little People held its world premiere at the Molodist Kyiv International Film Festival. The documentary is produced by Elena Saulich and Ringaile Leščinskienė. Co-producers are Arturas Jevdokimovas (Nuline Kopija), Mike Lerner (Roastbeef Productions), and Lisa Marie Russo (Autofiction Films). It’s a Ukraine, Lithuania & United Kingdom co-production.

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