Home Hollywood ‘Bucha,’ First Ukrainian Feature Shot Since War Began, Seeks Steaming Deal

‘Bucha,’ First Ukrainian Feature Shot Since War Began, Seeks Steaming Deal

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‘Bucha,’ First Ukrainian Feature Shot Since War Began, Seeks Steaming Deal

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The makers of Bucha, the first narrative feature film shot in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country, are aiming for a major distribution deal for their gripping drama.

Director Stanislav Tiunov and writer-producer Oleksandr Schur unveiled a nearly finished rough cut of the film at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, the second anniversary of Russia’s brutal assault. The movie tells the heroic story of Konstantin Gudauskas, a Jewish man from Kazakhstan who risked his life to rescue hundreds of Ukrainians trapped in the city of Bucha and nearby towns outside Kyiv, after Russia began its bombardment and ground invasion of Ukraine.

Actor Cezary Lukaszewicz and director Stanislav Tiunov introduce a screening of 'Bucha' in Los Angeles.

Actor Cezary Lukaszewicz (L) and director Stanislav Tiunov introduce a screening of ‘Bucha’ in Los Angeles.

Matthew Carey

“We’re looking for a big distributor,” Tiunov told Deadline after the screening. “We have a couple of meetings here in L.A. Sasha [Schur] is going to San Francisco directly. We have meetings in London.”

“They’re trying to get a major streaming platform — Netflix, Apple, whoever is willing to go forward with this, because it’s not an easy film for Americans to process while the war is still going on,” explained Mariietta Volynska, who attended the Bucha screening and assisted the director in communicating in English. “This is the first [narrative] film that’s being released during the war and shot during the war.”

Russian forces occupied Bucha in March 2022, allegedly committing crimes against humanity on Ukrainian civilians. Ukrainian troops forced a Russian withdrawal from the city in April of that year.

Director Stanislav (center) Tiunov filming 'Bucha'

Director Stanislav Tiunov (center) filming ‘Bucha’

Courtesy of Level

“We shot the film in Kyiv and the Kyiv region, in Bucha,” Tiunov said. “Some locations were the same locations where the Russian terrorists were killing, raping people.”

Russia has denied committing atrocities in Bucha and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed videos showing dead civilians in the streets of Bucha had been faked (the investigative journalism group Bellingcat has disputed Russia’s assertions).

“The film Bucha is an artistic drama that impedes the proliferation of the propagandistic narratives of the Russian government,” notes a release about the cinematic project. “It reveals the horrific truth of events in Ukraine that unfolded at the beginning of the full-scale invasion in the cities of Bucha, Vorzel, and Hostomel.”

Filming 'Bucha'

Filming ‘Bucha’

Courtesy of Level

According to a synopsis, “The film tells about the rescue of local residents by Konstantin Gudauskas, a citizen of Kazakhstan who received asylum in Ukraine and lived in Bucha. When the Russian invasion began, he was allowed to cross into the territory occupied by Russian troops because of his Kazakh passport. Once there, he was able to extract Ukrainian civilians out of the occupied territory into safety. Konstantin not only saved people, but also became an eyewitness to all the horrors of war and occupation.”

Polish actor Cezary Lukaszewicz plays Gudauskas. Ukrainian actor Vyacheslav Dovzhenko stars as a Russian commander who does not let international law deter him from summarily executing Ukrainian civilians. Lukaszewicz attended Saturday’s screening in L.A. and was introduced as part of a Q&A after the film played, but when the mic was passed to him he said he was too overcome with emotion to speak.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the State Border Service of Ukraine, the National Police of Ukraine, the Kyiv City Council, the Kyiv Regional Military Administration and Ukrainian film studio — Film.UA Group – “assisted the team in creating and shooting the film and also act as co-producers and distributors of the film,” according to the movie’s website.

Producer at a screening of 'Bucha' in Los Angeles.

Producer Oleksandr Schur at a screening of ‘Bucha’ in Los Angeles.

Matthew Carey

Schur, the writer-producer, has written a dozen TV series for Studio Kvartal 95, a production company founded by then-actor and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who would later be elected president of Ukraine in 2019.

In a statement, Schur said of Bucha, “Through this project we want to bring attention of the international community to what has happened and urge for continued military and financial support of Ukrainian people in our fight against evil invaders.”

Gudauskas, the subject of the film, has continued his humanitarian work after his efforts to evacuate trapped Ukrainian civilians, turning his focus now to the youngest victims of the war.

Konstantin Gudauskas, a Kazakh citizen and former journalist and human rights activist living in exile in Ukraine, poses for a photo in front of pieces of paper with the names and details of 203 Ukrainian citizens he rescued from behind Russian frontlines north of the capital on April 30, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Konstantin Gudauskas in Kyiv, April 30, 2022.

Scott Peterson/Getty Images

“He has his own foundation after the occupation of Bucha,” Tiunov said. “He’s helping children who lost their parents. He’s collecting a lot of money for them. We helped him too for Christmas — we brought [the kids] a lot of different presents.”

In an interview in 2022, Gudauskas described being stopped at Russian-manned checkpoints as he tried to drive Ukrainian civilians to safety in the early days of the war. “I was asked by them [Russians] all the time, ‘Aren’t you afraid to die?’” Gudauskas said. “I told them, ‘I am afraid to die doing nothing.’”

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