Ji.hlava Opener Director Oksana Moiseniuk Recalls the Frenzy of the ‘8th Day of the War’

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine took many by surprise, including Oksana Moiseniuk, the director of Ji.hlava Film Festival’s opener “8th Day of the War.”

“Nobody was ready for it. On the sixth day of war, I understood I was living in a documentary,” Ukrainian director tells Variety.

Moiseniuk, who has been living and working in the Czech Republic for many years now, had exactly one day to prepare for her film.

“I was naïve. I thought it would be called ‘The Last Day of the War,’” she states.

“I thought it would end by that time. It still hasn’t.”

Produced by Moiseniuk and Elisey Mashchenskiy for Prague-based Fenomart – in co-production with Czech Television – it focuses on one day in the life of the Ukrainian diaspora.

While they have gotten used to their new life in Czech Republic, once the war breaks out, all they are trying to do is help. Be it by organizing a charity collection for Kharkov, looking for bulletproof vests for the army or accommodation for those who escaped. All the while trying to understand the gravity of the ever-changing situation.

“I wanted to follow this community from the morning until night. Show how much can happen in just one day,” says Moiseniuk.

“All these people, they still have a very strong connection to Ukraine. They really cherish their country. It was hard for them to see all these events online, on their phones. They felt so hopeless at first. Everyone was scared and confused.”

Just like her relentless protagonists, she was “running on adrenaline and emotions” at first.

“Everything was happening so fast,” she recalls.

“You do want to capture it all, but it was crucial to let them do whatever it was they were doing. I didn’t want to influence them or to disturb them.”

In the film, she follows people trying to save their families, help refugees or simply worrying about their loved ones, doing their best to stick to their daily routines. But their minds are miles away.

“I saw construction workers who had to keep on working even though the buildings in their own country were collapsing. People who thought they should be there, but they simply couldn’t,” she says.

But while her protagonists try to stay strong and keep on going for as long as they can, they do break down sometimes. Usually, when nobody else is looking.

“I wanted to show that when we are surrounded by our family members, we can be true to ourselves. We can be vulnerable and weak,” the helmer says.

“During the day, we can help hundreds of people, but sometimes we need help too.”

Moiseniuk – who has been also working on a documentary about Ukrainian guest workers, a real “phenomenon” that needs to be put in the spotlight, she says – is hoping to spark a heated conversation following the Ji.hlava premiere. Also in the Czech Republic.

“I am aware that people are getting tired of this war, that they are getting bitter. I am hearing voices that it’s ‘Ukraine’s fault’ that prices are going up, that we are facing so many problems right now,” she says.

“But here is the thing: we didn’t start anything. It’s our country that has been invaded, it’s Russian politicians who should be blamed. I just want people to feel this compassion again.”

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