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Bitter Harvest

Coming Soon

Oh Bitter Harvest, where do I begin? Let’s start with the facts…Max Irons plays Yuri, a young man from the countryside in Ukraine. A good man with a wholesome personality and absolutely no idea what is about to hit him. The beginning of the story centers around him leaving for the big city of Kiev to pursue an art degree but this is 1932 Ukraine, and Stalin’s reign is reaching its peak. If you, like myself, don’t know too much about Holomodor, let me share:
“In June of 1933, at the height of the Holodomor, 28,000 men, women and children in Ukraine were dying of starvation each day. The land that was known worldwide as the breadbasket of Europe was being ravaged by a man-made famine of unprecedented scale.
Stalin and his followers were determined to teach Ukraine’s farmers “a lesson they would not forget” for resisting collectivization, which meant giving up their own land to work on government controlled farms. Moreover, the famine was meant to deal “a crushing blow” to any aspirations for independence from the Soviet Union by the Ukrainians, 80 percent of whom worked the land.
While millions of people in Ukraine and in the mostly ethnically Ukrainian areas of the northern Caucasus were dying, the Soviet Union was denying the famine and exporting enough grain from Ukraine to have fed the entire population. For 50 years, surviving generations were forbidden to speak of it, until the Soviet Union was near collapse. “
I was pretty intrigued to learn about an awful event, that in history has sadly been reduced to numbers, if mentioned at all. The problem with this film (and there are many) is the fact that it doesn’t fully commit to anything. It’s not a romance. It’s not a terribly well executed period piece. And the pacing is too drawn out to be engaging. The magic of movies lies in the fact that they can showcase individual storylines within a monstrosity of events carrying on (both real and fake), effectively making it easier to swallow and digest. This film felt oddly removed from the events going on, or rather, the characters felt removed from the true story they were pretending to live in. The realism of the tragedy just wasn’t there. There are random bodies discarded to represent the hardships and danger, but we never delved into the lives of those who truly suffered, instead opting to follow around a semi-boring young man lost in the shuffle.
Let’s get back to the facts though – Russia and Ukraine’s relationship with one another is incredibly complex. What happened in 1932 was a travesty that deserves to be taught about (at least in my neck of the woods, maybe other schools learned about it more), and not via Hollywood-esque dramas with sensationalized romances and very British actors not even attempting Ukrainian accents. I’m from the state and I noted that the whole thing felt inauthentic. I’m not going to lie, I felt pretty bitter after watching this film.

Bitter Harvest is streaming now on the following services:
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