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FAMILY PORTRAIT (55' & 85')
GENRE: DOCUMENTARY
DIRECTED BY JULIA IVANOVA


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In a small village in racially charged Ukraine, headstrong Olga Nenya is foster-mom to 16 Ukrainian-African orphans and mom to 27 children total. Despite hardships caused by their lack of money and the racist attitudes of their citizens, these abandoned kids function as a family unit under Olga?s relentless dictatorial, pseudo-Stalinist guidance. The film offers deep insight into a fraught community surrounding this one-of-a-kind clan and into the passions, hopes and hardships of a unique self-made family.

?Family Portrait is Riveting.?
- LA WEEKLY

"Family Portrait in Black and White has a quiet, deceptive simplicity that recalls the films of the Maysles brothers."

- Chuck Bowen, SLANT MAGAZINE

?Engaging documentary. Well Crafted. Nicely scored.?

- Dennis Harvey, VARIETY

?Gets high marks for honesty.?
- Neil Genzlinger, NEW YORK TIMES

"...to know that a film like Family Portrait in Black and White will be playing in a Times Square multiplex alongside franchise blockbusters in the dead heat of summer should give us all a tiny breath of hope."

- Michael Tully, FILMMAKER MAGAZINE

?Julia Ivanova shows a masterful ability in examining psychological landscape in the magnificent Family Portrait in Black and White.?

- Rafael Vega, EL NORTE DE CASTILL

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Of the 27 children, 23 have been adopted or foster care with Olga for as long as they can remember. She calls her bi-racial children ?my chocolates?, and raises them as patriotic Ukrainians. Some locals consider Olga a saint - but many believe she is just crazy. Inherited from the Soviet era, there is a stigma in the country against interracial relationships, and against children born as "consequences" of romantic encounters between local girls and students from Africa. The destiny of hundreds of bi-racial children is tragic - unwanted and doomed to grow up as orphans. Hence, for over a decade, Olga has been literally picking up the black babies left in Ukrainian orphanages.

The lesson the kids learn very early is ?life is not fair?. Olga is no Mother Teresa. She loves most of her children but can barely stand a few. By now, most of Olga?s children are teenagers, with different personalities, interests and strengths. Kiril, a 16-year-old boy nicknamed ?Mr. President? for his intelligence, work ethic, and effortless aristocracy, is the one who dares to openly argue with Olga. Roman never argues, but stubbornly breaks the rules. Sylvia is a beautiful, shy, obedient girl, who plays violin and whose parents were both students from Egypt.

Interviews with Neo Nazis in Ukraine reveal the real dangers of dark skin in the street. These white supremacist youth joke about their evening raids and how police seemingly lets them do it, unless they actually murder someone. Olga is literally sacrificing her life to raise her children. In an Orwellian picture - an absurd injustice occurs when bureaucrats who don?t help the family yet blame Olga for all shortcomings they find in the her home. The local authorities threaten to ?downsize? her family. The chilling consequences of a pending separation from Olga and each other become clear as we see the story unfold.

?At least when the kids grow up, they?ll have a mother to blame for all the failures that will happen in their lives?. A Mother (ideal or not, biological or adoptive) versus being raised in the best of orphanages; there, a child calls every caregiver ?a mom?, and might have twenty moms without knowing what a real MOTHER is.

Family Portrait in Black and White has screened at film festivals all over the world - from Korea to Bermuda, from Mumbai to Amsterdam, including Sundance, Los Angeles, Seattle, Cleveland, Hamptons, Vancouver and numerous others. Winner at Hot Docs Film Festival (Canada), Valladolid Film Festival (Spain), Miradasdoc (Canary Islands) and Addis Ababa Film Festival (Ethiopia).