Film Reviews

REVIEW: Ukraine is Not a Brothel

Hot Docs 2014

Ukraine Is Not a Brothel
Australia/Ukraine, 80 min.
Directed by Kitty Green
Programme: Special Presentations (Canadian Premiere)

Is it possible that a documentary might reveal too much? A celebration of direct action and feminist protest slowly becomes something more sinister in Kitty Green’s incendiary Ukraine is not a Brothel. With unprecedented access to a wealth of exposing interviews, Brothel is dark, introspective, and investigative.

Spending time with members of FEMEN, who protest against patriarchy and conservatism in Ukraine by disrupting public spaces with messages painted onto their exposed breasts, Green elicits truthful but conflicting testimonies from the organisation’s most vocal participants. Framing the day-to-day lives of these activists in stark natural lighting, the doc is an intriguing critique of the discrepancies and hypocrisies that arise in all political conflicts.

Ukraine is not a Brothel hinges on a third act twist that is absolutely fascinating, and ultimately throws into question all we understand about FEMEN and their motivation for protest. Green obviously spent a lot of time with her subjects, and they open up to her and the audience in a way that is more revealing and terrifying for them than fighting off police officers while half naked ever could be. What results is an assured and tightly constructed filmic essay that illustrates the ultimate power of rational thought. These characters are not bound by patriarchy to a paradoxical political system; through their revelations their commitment to freedom, awareness and change only grows stronger.

Visit POV’s Hot Docs Hub for more reviews and features on the 2014 festival.

Nicholas Gergesha is a graduate of the University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute. In addition to writing for magazines like POV, he also performs visual research and works with the City of Toronto.

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