At its development stage, director Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk summarised his impressive debut feature film as being about “a good family in the darkness”. Immersed in the culture and customs of the Bukovina region of western Ukraine (the cast spent months mastering the local dialect), this rural gangster thriller has at its heart the region’s Malanka carnival, the subject of Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk’s film school graduation project.
His film school collaborator, cinematographer Nikita Kuzmenko (who has directed music videos for Harry Styles and The Weeknd), creates striking and ethereal images, with key visual reference points including Caravaggio paintings and East Asian movies such as In the Mood for Love.
Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk’s film had to be smuggled out of the country after the Russian invasion; two crew members have subsequently lost their lives fighting in the Ukrainian armed forces. He is now focused on documenting the war and has observed that “I set out to make a film about contemporary Ukraine, but Pamfir became, unintentionally, a historical movie about a life and outlook that has vanished for many Ukrainians.”
“balances muscular, crime thriller tropes against moments of striking, unsettling beauty, tension and urgency against knottily complex character development.” Wendy Ide, Observer.
“one of the strangest and fiercest movies I have seen in a while: dynamic and yet despairing.” Peter Bradshaw, Guardian.