Kitty Green’s debut feature documentary Ukraine is not a Brothel will make its Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival this month after making headlines in Venice last year.
The film focusses on the topless feminist movement Femen; a discovery Green made whilst travelling through the Ukraine years ago.
“I’m from Melbourne but my Grandma is Ukrainian, so I was there travelling around, doing touristy things, before I ran across the girls protesting in a fountain in Kiev. I had my DSLR with me and shot it – these beautiful blonde girls with flowers in their hair protesting topless, who were then dragged away kicking and screaming by police,” Green tells IF.
She then approached the protestors and asked if she could continue to film them – an arrangement which saw her end up living with six of them in a two bedroom apartment for a period of 14 months.
When she came back to Australia, she had over 700 hours of footage she then edited from her bedroom on her Mac computer.
“I always knew what the story would be. There was a darker twist in it, a darker angle I wanted to explore. I would shoot the fluff and everyday stuff just to keep the girls happy and to make sure everyone felt like they were getting their share of coverage, but I always knew where I wanted to take it.”
The ‘darker twist’ involved the revelation the group was founded by a man, Victor Svyatski, who left the collective a year ago.
When Ukraine is not a Brothel premiered at the Venice Film Festival, the discovery of Svyatski’s involvement made headlines throughout Europe.
“There was a lot of negative press about the movement after that,” says Green. “On the way the organisation was run. Obviously the film reveals there is a man pulling the strings – a puppet master – and the film broke that story. The press went crazy and the girls had a hard time for a while, but they were then able to use that coverage to be able to say ‘we’ve changed, we’ve evolved, we’re a better movement now.’”
Green is looking forward to being able to show the film to an Australian audience – in particular to her Mum, who has yet to see it.
“I’ve been travelling with this film a lot so it’s really exciting to be able to bring it home,” Green says. “There are many Australian links people may not realise – the crew is Australian, all of our post was done in Australia, and I think it what really is a very Ukrainian story was really shot from a very Western perspective, so we’re coming at it in a way that Australian audiences will understand.”
Green leaves for Italy tomorrow for the film’s theatrical release (it has deals with both Italy and Canada) before hopefully returning home for the Australian premiere on June 13.
She is currently in the process of negotiating distribution deals fwith other territories around the world.
Ukraine is not a Brothel will make its Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival at 6.15pm on Friday, June 13.