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Movie Review: Bitter Harvest

Scene from “Bitter Harvest.”

By: Anton Massopust III

Officer: “This will kill millions!” Stalin: “Who in the world will know?”

There are many stories about World War II and the events leading up to it.  “Bitter Harvest” is a story that not many people will know, but should be talked about, namely the Holodomor, or the artificially imposed famine upon Ukraine by Joseph Stalin that killed around 8 million people. The Holodomor literally comes from the Ukrainian word “holod” which means hunger. The tragedy portrayed in the new movie “Bitter Harvest” tells the story of a young artist named Ivan, who is in love with a beautiful girl and his rolling fertile fields of Ukraine.  After the Bolshevik Revolution killed the Tsar of Russia, and Joseph Stalin seized power from the former Soviet leader, Vladimir Lenin, Stalin then turned his eyes toward Ukraine. Stalin wanted to break the people who recently declared independence and absorb them totally under the new Soviet machine. Ivan and his young love are caught up in the currents of history, as he journeys to Kyiv in order to practice art. His young wife is left behind and faces the terrors of the forced famine imposed by the Soviet soldiers who herd the people onto collective farms and brutally torture them. They took all their food and forced starvation on the people of Ukraine. Stalin ordered persecution of the church, grinding hunger, and sheer terror was imposed to break the will of the Ukrainian people.  It is the hope of the young couple to reunite and eventually escape this horror to Canada.

The movie is well acted, even though most of the actors are virtually unknown.  We get a sense that we are in the middle of the vast breadbasket fields of Ukraine with its rolling hills, vast fields of wheat and sunflower, and its unique culture.  It reminds me of a lot of the movies they used to make in the 1930s and 1940s regarding the Midwestern United States.  It is a bit slow in spots, but a well-rounded tale that captures the essence of the tragedy of the Holodomor. I thought the costumes were very accurate for the time period and it was all in all a good independent film.  Even if you don’t know anything about Ukrainian Culture and the spirit of its people, this is a film well worth seeing.

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