The streets of Sofia are full of the bright colors of the Ukrainian film festival OKO, which has found a home in the capital of its second homeland, Bulgaria, this year. Along with the presentation of the main poster, the organizers invite you to recall the tumultuous and intense history of the festival, which is featured in the promotional video of the IVth edition.
The heroic theme of the main OKO poster is embodied in the dynamic and decisive act of overcoming the Serpent by the famous folklore hero Kotyhoroshko. The bright, contrasting colors appeal to the hero's uncompromising attitude to the fight against evil. “Should we fight evil or make peace with it?” That's what Kotyhoroshko is constantly being asked in the fairy tale. “Fight!” — the hero replies without a shadow of a doubt. In the same way, our festival chooses to “Fight!” — for culture, for preserving traditions, for our own identity and, of course, for the opportunity to unite peoples through the power of cinema. This year, our branded OKO pink color has been complemented by green — the color of a small pea, which contains the life-giving power that can withstand the most powerful evil.
How did OKO begin? How did it grow, evolve, and what brought it to Sofia? The animation at the beginning of the video, created by our irreplaceable designer Liliya Topor, was inspired by folklore motives and showed the transformation of a pea into a whole universe. Similarly, when we held the first edition online during the pandemic, we dreamed that one day OKO would be able to unite filmmakers from all over the world. “Anyone can hold the festival once!” the jury member Mykhailo Ilienko told us at the time, “The second year will be the hardest. If you manage to get through it, the festival will live!”
And the festival did survive! The second edition took place for three days offline in the heart of Bessarabia, in Bolhrad, bringing together Ukrainian and, despite the Covid-19, international guests in the sunny south of Ukraine. At the same time, seven full days of the festival were held online.
The third edition was threatened by the outbreak of russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. However, OKO continued its struggle, choosing the slogan “Your culture is your weapon!” Thanks to the support of our Polish partners, the International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography Camerimage, OKO was able to fulfill its long-held dream: to gather the whole world around it! We welcomed directors who shot their films in Europe, Africa, the Americas and on remote islands, in such corners of the planet that we did not even know they existed. It was a real celebration of ethnographic cinema.
OKO's challenging journey continues. With the support of the Bulgarian people, the fourth edition of the festival will be held offline in Sofia and online for Ukrainian viewers. Like the fairy-tale Kotyhoroshko, we aren’t going to stop our struggle to show the best films about the world to Ukraine and Bulgaria and the best films about Ukraine and Bulgaria to the world.