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Pamfir (A Movie Review)

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

PAMFIR (2022)

Starring Oleksandr Yatsentyuk, Miroslav Makoviychuk, Olena Khokhlatkina, Ivan Sharan, Solomiya Kyrylova and Stanislav Potiak.

Screenplay by Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk.

Directed by Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk.

Distributed by Indie Sales. 106 minutes. Not Rated.

Screened at the 2022 Philadelphia Film Festival.

Ukraine is of course on everyone’s mind these days, however even under brutal attack, the country has been thriving and surviving. This is not just for the citizens and army; it also goes for the country’s film industry.

Now, Pamfir was probably mostly filmed before the Russian attack on Ukraine. Also, while thematically it does somewhat mirror the situation, it is not specifically discussing the Russian aggression into the country, which had been going for years even before Vladimir Putin decided to annex the former USSR territory.

However, Pamfir is about the strength and resilience of ordinary Ukrainian citizens in the face of massive corruption and violence which is constantly beating them down.

Specifically, it is about how one man, who has to return to crime to feed his family, is used as a pawn by much bigger political forces than him and is nearly destroyed by the situation.

This man is Leonid (Oleksandr Yatsentyuk), derisively known as “Pamfir” (which is Ukrainian for “stone”) by the underworld and the political bosses of his little village in the border region of Chernivtsi. Years earlier, Leonid had been part of his family’s traditional “business” of smuggling items into neighboring Romania.

He had given that up years earlier, when he was witness to his father being maimed for his crimes. Leonid’s wife Olena (Solomiya Kyrylova) had begged him to go straight, which he had, working out of the country for months on end and not quite making enough to make ends meet. However, he loved his wife and son Nazar (Stanislav Potyak) and wanted a better life for them.

Therefore when home briefly to take his son to the local carnival, he agreed to do one last illegal job, putting him in the crosshairs of the local mob boss – who also happened to be a high-level government agent. This puts the man in physical and mental hazard, and also puts Nazar in danger.

Pamfir is sumptuously shot with long, stately shots and an imaginative palette of dirty colors and symbols. It takes on a tenuous and sense of suspense as Leonid descends increasingly deeply into a labyrinth he has little chance of navigating, and as we learn the depths of the rot in the town.

Pamfir has a fractured fairytale logic – if you are looking at the original, violent endings of most traditional fairytales – that is fascinating and devastating.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: October 30, 2022.


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