During the revolution it was difficult to be a human, to be a wife, to be whatever
Was born 1989 in Lutsk in Ukraine. Studied biology, and later journalism at the Kyiv Mohyla Academy. Then she graduated from the School of the Documentary Film and Theater at Marina Razbezhkina and Mikhail Ugarov in Moscow. She was working as an editor in web-documentary project „Reality” (2013/ www.realnost.com) and as a curator of projects at the „My Street Films” contest of the „86” festival of film and urbanism in 2015 and 2016. Currently, she has been teaching and second teacher at the master-degree course "Documentary and Factual TV" at “Kyiv-Mohyla School of Journalism”, National University of "Kyiv-Mohyla Academy".
Her collaborative film “Euromaidan. Rough Cut” was introduced in Czech Republic within the festival One World in 2015. Now she is engaged in educational documentary programs, works on creative documentary and fiction projects.
Interview with Kateryna Gornostaiquestions by Juliana Höschlová
You studied biology, journalism and cinematography. It might seem quite far away from each other but it leads to one certain point. The interest of humanity. Is the human a central point of your work?
I really wanted to study in Kyiv-Mohyla University but I thought I am not smart enough so I decided to study something very unpopular like biology, there. And it was also the matter of money and receiving a scholarship. I was too young but I really wanted to study there because I liked the atmosphere. I am interested in science but not very into it. My parents are psychologists so there could be some link. In a time, first camera appeared in our family and I really liked it so after my graduation from biology I decided to study journalism even though I haven´t been working as a journalist any single day. I realized I need to have a deeper view into the situation not the brief one you always have to have when you work as a journalist. Documentary is just opposite.
How has the work with motion picture changed your career? It must have been a turning point of telling a story in a visual way.
I do believe if you want to say something you just choose the best way how to say it. I have tried many different forms. I do write all the time, just for me. And I do have a lot of materials but I always struggle with the fact how to show this and that to make the audience understand it. Some forms work, some don´t. And working with a video is the way I like mostly. I like to fix the reality there. And I have a big archive. I am shooting pretty much all the time. It is about catching the reality around me. The sound, the atmosphere, ordinary every-day things and when I watch it the past is just suddenly alive in my head. The archive helps me to preserve some anthropological features.
When Euromaidan started you were studying in Moscow. But you interrupted your studies and came back to Kyiv. Did you have a kind of strong feeling to catch and preserve this moment which was the starting point of upcoming events?
My main motivation for coming back was simply a fear. I have the whole family and friends in Kyiv and in that time I had no connection with them. I was watching everything online. And it was all worse than standing on Maidan in real, later. I think it is a matter of self-control. If you are in some situation you control yourself and have a view into the scope of few meters around you. If you watch it online, you can´t control it and do nothing with that. In my film "Maidan is everywhere" I shot my friends and people around me who were watching the situation but not throwing the stones. I just simply realized I can´t be in the front lines. I was very scared. It was so huge. I felt like I failed. I thought I am strong enough to go in front as a good documentarist. This was one of many crises on Maidan. When I was editing the video I thought I did everything wrong. It was all chaos.
But it came out with very personal testimony. Although, we don´t see the hero leading us through the whole revolution we can experience all the struggles, emotions, questions of young people living in today´s world. In the situation which happened very fast and nobody was expecting it.
When I studied journalism we had a class where we were collecting news from different countries and making some researches, working in the team and so on. All the news about bombing Iraq or Afghanistan were too far for us. And suddenly we felt it here. It is happening in my country. We have many different movies about Euromaidan and it is not possible to make the whole portrait of this situation in one film. Maybe it could be a problem of the cinematography itself. In a film you must be clear about what you want to say. One sentence. And Euromaidan has many different sentences. Mine would be about: “No matter what you do, there is a war in your country. It has started but not ended yet.”
You made a film about Euromaidan but you were also there in present. What is the difference between the live experience and the movie about it you can watch in the cinema later?
I really don´t know what the audience wants to see. I remember when I saw the premier of the movie “Maidan” by Sergei Loznitsa. It was the first movie about it. And it is made like if it is viewed by God. Very long scenes and shoots, people there are very small, wide angles. To me it was like an image of battlefield. Very interesting though. There were a lot of critics. Ordinary people just wanted to see a patriotic movie about revolution. There will never be enough of films filling the personal inner view of each person who was there. The topic is so heavy and so many things have been told that it´s already a huge mess in people´s heads. Even students in universities can´t distinguish between more patriotic movies. They perceive it as a propaganda. They are not willing to analyze it deeper and see the other side of the mince.
As you mentioned, there are many movies about Euromaidan revolution. What were the reactions on your film?
I am very bad in distributing my movies. I am more into filming and editing. But there was very important point for me to show it at home and I did that at Ducudays festival. It was a year after we already sent a movie “Rough cut” around the world. I was one of the directors there and it was even screened in Prague during One World festival. So I knew there are many Euromaidan movies and realized that western world is not interested in such a topic because of another one- a refugee crises in Europe. I tried to send it to the festivals but it was refused. This topic is dead. The new Ukrainian topic is the war.
Your short movie “Away” won a few prices like Best Ukrainian film at Wiz-Art Film Festival, Best acting award at Odessa Film Festival, Best Ukrainian short at Molodist IFF. Is the movie scrip based on revolution background, too?
I guess, your feeling comes from the context that are personally here. It was written in that time but I would say that the background of main character could be from anywhere. The most important topic for me has been the very intimate and inner circle I work with. During the revolution it was difficult to be a human, to be a wife, to be whatever. Everything was all around Maidan. The film comes from my personal dialog and I just wanted to catch this sharp moment. And it was my first fiction movie.
Fiction is one of your other film genre you combine with documentary, too.
I believe that everything is constructed so fiction and documentary could be equal. Once you´re editing you´re already manipulating. But for me personally, if I make a documentary I need to have very strong topic. And after Maidan I don´t have any. So I rather shoot a fictional movie. I like it.
What is yours feeling about being Ukrainian filmmaker in such a situation here and with good friends and connections in country which most of Ukrainians blame?
I am very grateful I had a chance to root myself in Moscow for a while and could make a great friendships with people who are open and understanding. They support me and my friends all the time. I am always very sad to see people who don´t have any relatives or connections in Russia because they have become a victims of propaganda thinking that the whole evil and enemies are there. But I lost some of my friends there, too. Unfortunately because of political events. And about my plans I can tell you a short story. I was in one film festival in 2014. In that time our war just blossomed and I was reading news all the time and became paralyzed. I met there one Israeli filmmaker and one Syrian producer. All the documents were about war and its impacts. In that time I though our war will end up soon. After I watched these movies I realized that this won´t happen. The Israeli filmmaker told me that it will become OK for us and that we can still have a normal life. She used to go to the restaurant while bombing. She told me that they used to say when some child is born then maybe in his or her 16´s the war is over. But there are already generations born. Me and some of my friends have stopped to read a news and started to do our work. Later on, other opportunities came and it makes me a sense to do what I can.