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A Movie Review… Stalin’s Bitter Harvest

February 23, 2017 Featured Today No Comments

By REY FLORES

Bitter Harvest is a powerful film; but where do I begin to tell you about it?
The first 11 minutes give us the background of the main characters who are shown enjoying somewhat of the last vestiges of a peaceful and idyllic existence before the Holodomor, which was a deliberate famine created by Josef Stalin and his Bolsheviks by taking over farmland in the Soviet Ukraine. This famine killed more than eight million people between 1932 and 1933. Holodomor means “death by forced starvation” in Ukrainian.
Given that my knowledge of this historical event was minimal, I visited a terrific website dedicated to telling the dreadful story of the Holodomor at holodomorct.org, and this is a basic synopsis of these events.
“In its broadest sense, ‘holodomor’ is also used to describe the Ukrainian genocide that began in 1929 with the massive waves of deadly deportations of Ukraine’s most successful farmers (kurkuls, or kulaks, in Russian) as well as the deportations and executions of Ukraine’s religious, intellectual, and cultural leaders, culminating in the devastating forced famine that killed millions more innocent individuals.
“The genocide in fact continued for several more years with the further destruction of Ukraine’s political leadership, the resettlement of Ukraine’s depopulated areas with other ethnic groups, the prosecution of those who dared to speak of the famine publicly, and the consistent blatant denial of famine by the Soviet regime.”
As far as this film goes, it is a brutal and realistic portrayal of brutal historical events. One often hears much more about World War II and how the Nazis perpetrated the Holocaust, but this Holodomor was just as horrible and killed more people than did the Holocaust.
Sitting through a movie like this requires something of an emotional investment by the viewer. It’s not like turning on some Star Wars movie with popcorn and candy. I personally don’t like watching movies like this because by the time the credits start to roll, I feel emotionally drained, but that isn’t to say that it’s a bad movie.
The value that a film like this brings to an audience is the historical lesson we can all learn from it. While some of the story line is fiction, the events and the suffering and death were all too real. At the end of the film we are reminded that the full horror of this deliberate policy of genocide toward Ukraine was revealed only after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Much of the movie was filmed on location in Ukraine.
Be prepared to watch scenes of cruelty, violence, and dead human bodies thrown around like ragdolls in piles and mass graves. There are also plenty of war scenes where people are being mowed down like flies by machine guns as they try to escape Josef Stalin’s border guards on their way to freedom.
This film is definitely not for children under perhaps 14 years of age because it also contains some provocative scenes which are sexual in nature, although mostly implied.
The movie stars Max Irons as Yuri and Samantha Barks as Natalka; their lifelong romance is depicted throughout the film. There are also strong performances by Tamer Hassan, who plays one of Stalin’s main henchmen, and by Gary Oliver, who plays Josef Stalin.
Director George Mendeluk cowrote the screenplay with Richard Bachynsky-Hoover based on Bachynsky-Hoover’s original story. The film is produced by Ian Ihnatowycz, Stuart Baird, George Mendeluk, Chad Barager, and Jaye Gazeley. Dennis Davidson, Peter D. Graves, and William J. Immerman served as executive producers.
Roadside Attractions presents Bitter Harvest a powerful tale of love, honor, rebellion, and survival at a time when Ukraine was forced to adjust to the horrifying territorial ambitions of the burgeoning Soviet Union. With an exceptional cast of established and rising stars, the film epically recreates one of the most dramatic and dangerous episodes in the history of 20th-century Europe. It opens nationwide February 24.
Visit www.bitterharvestfilm.com to view the trailer.

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