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Alica Kovalenko, a stage director is shooting the documentary film «Expedition 49» in Luhansk region, with the support of the Ukrainian State Film Agency. Two girls from Stanytsia Luhanska village, two teenage boys from Zolote village and one from Valuiske village, Stanychno-Luhanskyi district became its characters.

It is not the first film related with Donbas. Back in 2014, being a student at the Kyiv National I. K. Karpenko-Kary Theatre, Cinema and Television University, she went for the first time to Sloviansk, captured by illegal armed forces, to collect material for the graduation film “Alica in War,” which she began to shoot from the events on Maydan. The taxi driver had to bring a stage director to a checkpoint to the Ukrainian military, but he brought her to the militants. So, Alice was captured by Strielkov’s group for a few days, who then captured the city.

Neither capture, no money, no danger in Pisky near the destroyed Donetsk airport, where Alica also was with her camera, did not prevent her from completing a graduation film, which later participated in 40 international festivals.

Later, there were ten episodes of a television project about women’s football for Czech broadcasting. One series was shot in Sievierodonetsk and was dedicated to the “Luhanochka” team, which is being taken care of by a migrant from Luhansk, coach Mycola Nikishyn.

And then sports journalist, Valentyn Shcherbachov from Kyiv, came up with a therapeutic travel project to allow teenagers from East to travel to the Himalayas. A competition was held among 100 teenagers from Luhansk and Donetsk region. A stage director read all the creative compositions and looked through the selfies to select with Shcherbachov 5 the most motivated participants. Valentyn already had the experience of communicating with children (once he created a football team and coached them), so the producers of the upcoming movie agreed that the road movie with teenagers in the lead roles is a good format for documentary film. The first shooting began.

“War is not just shooting,” Alica says. – The Himalayan expedition will take about 40% of the film. Everything else is Valentyn’s life and the inner world of each teenager. I was born and raised in Zaporizhia, Eastern Ukraine, so these teens who want to break away from isolation and to see another world are close to me. If war came to Zaporizhia, I think that there would be such a situation as in Donbas. Teens would be in the same isolation.

Alice is now perceived as a relative in five families. And she perceives five children as her own.

Liza and Lera are from Stanytsia Luhanska village. Liza is from a large family and has a brother and three sisters. She is the oldest and takes care of the younger ones. Talented and charismatic, Liza is in a creative search, draws beautifully, she wants to become an animation director… Lera is an orphan, a foster-child at a family-type children’s home. She got there being a little kid. Until 2014, she lived in Luhansk, and after the war, her family left this city. Lera is a great photographer and wants to master this art professionally…

Illia from Valuiske village is very active. The boy participates in various community projects, conducts mine safety training for younger children and together with like-minded people, he created a movie club in Valuiske. He wants to become an actor and play in a theater group…

Ruslan’s life from Zolote-2 is focused on «Carbonit» mine where his dad works. Ruslan’s acquaintance has parents, grandmother and sister who also work at the mine. Ruslan comments on video games finely and even makes money on it. There was a time when Ruslan’s dad was not paid money at the mine and the family lived on the money the boy had earned.

During the shooting at the mine (Alica Kovalenko)

Andrii from Zolote-4 has a lot of dreams, he is optimistic about the world and wants to realize himself despite living in a depressed city. Andrii and his friends made a homemade gym in the grandmother’s garden, hung up a punching bag and carry out training. At the age of 13, the boy repairs bicycles, motorcycles, wield a soldering iron, making electrical appliances. A stage director managed to shoot how he entertained – swinging on electrically dead wire…

According to Alica, living in Zolote-4 reminds the atmosphere of a provincial Italian town from the movie «Amarcord», directed by Federico Fellini. Zolote was built around the mines and closely linked to them. If the mine is closed in Zolote, then the «Carbonit» mine will be flooded, which in turn will cause the mine to be closed in the nearby town Hirske. In Zolote-5 (Mykhailivka), which is controlled by the armed forces of the “republic”, the mine is already flooded. Therefore, the harsh economic crisis is approaching Zolote will not be ignored by the filmmakers, if all the mines are closed.

In order for the teenagers to get to know each other before the expedition and check their physical training, Valentyn organized a training camp for them in Pokrovsk. However, way up and down for the development of the vestibular apparatus took place in old heaps, not in the mountains.

Valentyn Shcherbachov with teenagers

Before the pandemic was announced, the shooting team planned to travel with the characters to the Himalayas on April 15 and spend two weeks in Nepal. Valentyn Shcherbachov has been in the mountains many times, he knows the route well, so during the expedition, when it happens, everyone will rely on his experience. In addition to the mountaineering program, a cultural program is also planned during which teens will visit local temples and will learn about the history of Nepal.

The movie is shot in 4K format. The editing will take about a year and a half, so the movie will probably be ready by the end of next year.

Roman NAZARENKO/Gromada Skhid No. 4 (13) 2020