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FAMILY PORTRAIT IN BLACK AND WHITE
"Family Portrait in Black and White has a quiet, deceptive simplicity that recalls the films of the Maysles brothers" -Slant Magazine
"A fascinating story, fascinatingly told" -Christian Science Monitor
Critics' Pick! "Riveting" -L.A. Weekly
"Engaging... well-crafted" -Variety
½ -Chicago Tribune
"[Director Julia Ivanova's] movie honors the frustrating complexity of life" -Chicago Reader
How many kids are too many? Meet Olga Nenya, a Ukrainian foster mother who
has invited into her home nearly 20 unwanted orphans. Family Portrait in
Black and White is controversial not only for the sheer number of kids
living in one impoverished household, but also for the fact that many of
these orphans are bi-racial (who are the mixed-race offspring of visiting
African students and Ukrainian women) the equivalent of social pariahs in
Ukraine. Although each child is a full Ukrainian citizen, having been born
and raised there, the rest of the country aggressively views them as
outsiders and as a result, they are often uneducated and underfed. Yet Olga
continues to open her door to each of these innocent children-feeding them,
clothing them, and making sure they do their chores. But does a mother's
love truly know no boundaries, or is Olga spreading herself too thin,
harboring children in an unsafe environment in which they can never reach
their full potential?
Family Portrait in Black and White is an inspired and
challenging documentary that does not idealize Olga who reveals herself to
be loving and protective but also narrow-minded and controlling. It is this
paradox in Olga's personality that gives the children the sense of belonging
they ache for, as well as cause for rebellion and distrust.
Directed by Julia Ivanova, Ukraine/Canada, 2011, 99 mins. In Ukrainian. Italian and English with English subtitles.