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Program of the IV edition of the OKO International Ethnographic Film Festival


Program of the IVth edition of the OKO International
Ethnographic Film Festival

OKO films are diverse, emotional, rebellious, and sometimes shocking. They cannot leave anyone indifferent. OKO's mission is to explore the world and help peoples, nations, and minorities learn about each other, as well as understand and respect each other. In 2023, the festival expanded the classic program: films will compete for prizes in international feature and short competitions, as well as in two national competitions: Ukrainian and Bulgarian. Today we are happy to introduce you to the international program!


Golden Land, dir. Inka Achte (Finland), 84’

When Finnish-Somalian Mustafe discovers his ancestors' land in the horn of Africa is full of copper and gold, he decides to swap his family’s safe but boring life in Finland -the country hailed as the happiest and most equal in the world- for Somaliland, a self-declared state in East Africa. As Mustafe struggles to lift the treasures from underground, his children embark on a bumpy journey to uncover where they really belong.

Wise Donkey, dir. Francesco De Giorgi, Giovanni Iavarone (Italy), 73’

Puglia, May 2021. A group of folk music artists decides to make a 200-km journey on foot from Torre Guaceto (Brindisi) to Santa Maria di Leuca (Lecce) along the ancient roads of the Via Francigena. A young farmer and his donkey named Bartolo join the group, creating the "Company of Wise Donkeys." The documentary is the story of a musical journey into the memory, traditions, and popular culture of Salento.

Gyütö, dir. Filipa Cardoso (Belgium), 60’

To hear the sound of the ocean in the Himalayas... This unlikely wish takes a film director and her three girls to Gyütö, where a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, perched high, echoes day and night the sound of sacred tantric chants of meditation, «which sound like the waves of the ocean». Wandering freely about wherever their curiosity leads them, they discover the daily life of 400 monks living there. Over time, a dialogue develops and a growing complicity emerges. From this intimate immersion, a film takes form, unfolding like a wave both visually and in sound. The reality of Buddhism is revealed in a way that is unprecedented, in the spontaneity of the questions asked, as well as with the sensitive understanding of a child’s point of view and with no proselytization at all.

The Order of Things, dir. Ramona Badescu, Jeff Silva (Romania), 72’

At the ripe age of 90 years old, Alexandru gardens, jokes, and continues to repair watches in the workshop opened by his father in 1909, somewhere in southern Romania. But what is invisible to everyone, and what has changed his life forever, is his past as a political prisoner. The Order of Things is an attempt to record the fragmented memory of one of the last direct witnesses of the Romanian forced labor camps and political prisons as well as an ode to resilience.

Balika, dir.  Aitor Sánchez Smith, Lander Ibarretxe (Spain), 65’

Balika tells the story of Dipendra and Sushmita, two teenagers living in an orphanage in Kathmandu. The protagonists, like all his friends, were abandoned by their families.

Only Roundup Remains, dir. Brian Liu (USA), 79’

In central Montana, the Highwood Cattle Roundup has been happening exactly this same way since 1912. As the world changes and modernizes, this proud iconic American culture struggles to preserve its way of life. Through the perspective of an aging father, his two sons, and their extended family of Montana cowboys, Only Roundup Remains provides a rare and intimate glimpse into the disappearing lifestyle of proud generational ranching families, their tradition, hard work, honor, and what might be their final roundup.

Arkadaşloch - Nobody's Problem, dir.  Nilay Kılınç, Markus Bauer, Alexander Brugger (Turkey), 79’

“Arkadaşloch – Nobody’s Problem” is an essay documentary film that tells the story of Özgür Kal who was deported from Germany to Turkey, and depicts his self-transformation from being the poster-child of failed integration to becoming a family-oriented business owner in Antalya. Based on Nilay Kılınç’s Ph.D. research, the documentary offers a closer look at the lives of second-generation Turkish-German migrants who have to deal with the precariousness of existence without a fixed abode and economic prospects, even after ‘returning’ to Turkey – their so-called “homeland”.

The Samaritans: A Biblical People, dir. Moshe Alafi (Israel), 78’

The biblical Samaritan community is fighting for its life and to save its language and faith from extinction.

The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree, dir. Bojan Dakić (Serbia), 48’

In the attics of Roma houses throughout Vojvodina, we found about a hundred VHS tapes showing the most important event in the life of the Roma, the wedding and wedding customs. The recordings were made at the end of the 1980s and during the 1990s. Some of the wedding customs have been preserved and are practiced today, others have experienced a transformation, and others were on the verge of being forgotten and were finally remembered in this film. Early and arranged marriages and the cult of virginity are an integral part of the Roma tradition. The older and younger generations talk about those customs that were dictated by their wandering past and to what extent these customs are desirable today.

In the hearts of the living, dir. Marielle Duclos  (France), 112’

Exclusion is a long journey that continues into death. Over the seasons, volunteers organize the burial of people who have experienced living on the street, trying to bring together their families and loved ones so that they do not leave alone, in oblivion and indifference. Each year, about twenty ceremonies are held in the cemetery of Cornebarrieu on the outskirts of Toulouse. A presence, gestures, songs, and stories accompany these deceased. Through their presence, which might seem vain, at the funerals of strangers, these volunteers question the scope and meaning of such a commitment beyond religious beliefs. By offering a dignified ceremony to the most precarious, they contribute, in a spirit of brotherhood, to honoring their memory. For the true tomb of the dead is the heart of the living.

Siren Lullabies, dir. Kristina Atovska (North Macedonia), 89’

The film “Siren Lulbabies” is an independent feature length documentary about the war in Ukraine in 2022, covering the first four months of the war. It’s a personalized story narrated by the director Kristina Atovska, who was the only journalist from her country in Ukraine… and went there alone. 
This movie is made mainly by Kristina’s passion for journalism and giving voice to the people that can’t be heard, in this case because of a war in their yards. That's why the main focus in this film is on the people who remained to live in war. Through their stories we see all the faces of war, from crimes against civilians to solidarity as a form of resistance, all of which are covered with exclusive footages. 
Kristina's journey starts in Lviv, goes through occupied Kyiv, the battlefield on the Zhytomyr highway, the Bucha and Irpin massacre and ends in the everyday bombing in Kharkiv. This is the movie that shows the feeling of having to change everyday routines in order to survive at least one more day under the rain of bombs and constant threat.


8 Billion: We Are All Responsible, dir. Nelson Kao (Brasil), 29’

Ailton Krenak, the indigenous leader and thinker, talks about the pain of the Watú (or Rio Doce in the Krenak language). Sick with the biggest environmental disaster in Brazilian history, the Mariana Dam disaster, the river asks for help. From the impacts on his village on the banks of the river, he makes an overview of the current Anthropocene period and invites all human beings to a journey of reflection and self-criticism, aiming at urgent but necessary paradigm shifts.

[Un]settled, dir. Elena Siretanu (Moldova), 11’

In a village in the Republic of Moldova, a girl tries to navigate her relationship with her grandmother who insists that she should get married and settle down.

La Tumba Mambi, dir. Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier, DJ Jigüe (Cuba), 29’

As a result of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), many French settlers traveled to Eastern Cuba with enslaved African people to escape the revolt. The Tumba Francesa Societies, which were known as a brotherhood and a mutual aid network, emerged from these waves of slave migrations. Eventually, they became integral constituents of Cuban culture. La Tumba Mambi is a docu-fiction film based on the Tumba Francesa La Caridad de Oriente, which is located in the city of Santiago de Cuba. Through the Society’s youngest member, Flavio, who is gathering information about the Tumba Francesa for a school project, we meet his grandmother Andrea and mother Queli, two charismatic knowledge keepers of their rich cultural traditions. The original film soundtrack composed and produced by Cuban-based DJ Jigüe, in collaboration with the Tumba Francesa members, is a rhythmic and striking reminder that the present is grounded in a history of struggles for freedom.

Back to our homeland, dir. Hawi Castañeda (Costa-Rica), 27’

A group of older Cabécares from Talamanca rediscover their past when they visit for the first time since they left the indigenous territory of China Kichá, in Pérez Zeledón, where they were born, grew up and left. In the process, they get to know the generations that did remain in the territory and that are currently in the process of fighting for the recovery of the land. "Returning to the land where we were born" is a documentary that deals with the memory of dispossession and the current struggle for the recovery of lands of the indigenous community of China Kichá.

Mirrors, dir. Alfonso Palazón Meseguer (Spain), 20’

From the surroundings of non-place several refugees talk about their situation, where they lived, and their dreams. It is a meeting to share non-fulfilled projects. They are part of a group of especially vulnerable refugees who have no choice.

The last 5 minutes, dir. Shahram Maslakhi (Middle East), 40’

It's about a runner who hasn't any country to live.

Mamapara - Mother Rain, dir. Alberto Flores Vilca (Peru), 18’

In the Peruvian highlands, he lives with his dog, Honorata Vilca, an illiterate woman of Quechua descent, dedicated to the sale of sweets. As the rainy season begins, she recounts passages of her life, until one evening something fatal happens that seems to make the heavens cry.

The bravery to blossom in darkness, dir. Francesco Marinelli (Italy), 28’

A group of extraordinary children, a school lost in the Tanzanian mountains and many legends. How are they intertwined and what might their stories have in common? But above all, where does the courage to blossom in the dark lie? 

Cradle, dir. Filip Jembrih (Slovenia), 14’

A young girl transitioning into adulthood ponders about her village, her parents and her brothers, which she will soon be leaving behind.

Carpenter, dir. Xelîl Sehragerd (Kurdistan), 14’

An old Kurdish man (Hussein Mahmood) who is a carpenter tries to make artificial legs for people who have lost their legs.

The Discoverer of the Discoverers, dir. C.S. Nicholson (Norway), 25’

A family in West Africa tells the story of how their ancestor discovered the European explorers — to a European film crew. We get to see how this encounter is still remembered ritually. But do all the claims about the historic event bear a closer look? And to which degree can we trust the filmmaker’s white gaze? This short documentary explores how pride and conscience may affect collective memories.

Inside the BoduMas, dir. Giulio Pedretti, Roberto Carini (Italy), 25’

Eid al-Adha is the "feast of sacrifice", it commemorates the end of Haji, an annual Muslim pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca. Muslims all over the world celebrate the feast by sacrificing an animal, usually a goat. In the Maldives, the celebration and the sacrifice are related to a Big Fish, the "Bodu Mas", and take place through various cultural, sporting, and religious moments, that unite the island communities. In the reportage, we are showing what happened during the Maghodhoo Eid Festival 2022.

And then we were taken away, dir. Jessica Bollag (Switzerland), 37’

In the 20th century, authorities in Switzerland placed over 100’000 children and adolescents in homes and foster families. The measures were implemented mainly for moral reasons and affected socially marginalized families in particular. The parents had hardly any success in legal proceedings against these decisions. Instead of fighting poverty, the state fought the poor. In the participatory ethnographic documentary “And then we were taken away”, two men in their sixties talk about the administrative foster care they experienced as a child. They lead the audience to the homes, locations of their tumultuous youth and to their favourite places. Through their biographies, the men document how out-of-home placements shaped their childhood, youth and present.

When a River Becomes a Border, dir. Robi Layio (Cameroon), 37'

The film discusses the artificiality and the Fragility of the border between Cameroon and Chad, which is determined by the Chari river. The people residing around the riverbank go freely back and forth, and take advantage of these socio-ethnic corridors to sneak between the two nationalities in order to seize the opportunities presented to them. The film accompanies Waldiga, a university student in Chad, who as many others in this region has a life on both sides.

National program of the IVth edition

Ukraine and Bulgaria have always been dear to the OKO film festival because our homeland, Ukrainian Bessarabia, is historically and ethnically connected with Bulgarians. Shortly after the start of the full-scale war, Sofia hosted the festival, providing a platform for screenings and discussions about Ukraine, its culture, and history. In 2023, Bulgaria officially became the second home for OKO. That is why we decided to announce two national competitions this year! 

Ukrainian films mainly depict the current realities of the war, in which people of different ages, backgrounds, and professions continue to live and work despite all odds. Well, this is an ethnographic sketch of the life of the Ukrainian people today. Bulgarian films show local folk customs, rituals, and crafts in all the variety and complexity of the relationship between the traditional and modern worlds.


We Will Not Fade Away, dir. Alisa Kovalenko, 100’

Donbas, 2019. The prospect of a new Russian invasion hangs in the air, while the sound of the gunfire resulting from the old one can still be heard in the distance. In this seemingly bleak wartime setting, five teenagers start to think seriously about their future. Their energy, enthusiasm, and hope allow them to fully live out their last golden hours of childhood despite the circumstances. The members of this imaginative band of dreamers paint, take photographs and fantasize about acting careers or becoming the next Elon Musk. They rebel, ride the waves of adventure, walk into minefields, and sunbathe by a local lake. They dream of escaping not only from the war but also, like teenagers all over the world, from the boredom of a small town. Then, an opportunity to embark on a long journey all the way to Nepal unexpectedly arises. Will their dream of conquering the world come true?

20 Days in Mariupol, dir. Mstyslav Chernov, 94’

An AP team of Ukrainian journalists trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol struggles to continue their work documenting the atrocities of the Russian invasion. As the only international reporters who remained in the city, they captured what later became defining images of the war: dying children, mass graves, the bombing of a maternity hospital, and more. After nearly a decade covering international conflicts, including the Russia-Ukraine war, for The Associated Press, 20 Days in Mariupol is Mstyslav Chernov’s first feature film. The film draws on Chernov’s daily news dispatches and personal footage of his own country at war. It offers a vivid, harrowing account of civilians caught in the siege, as well as a window into what it’s like to report from a conflict zone and the impact of such journalism around the globe.

Life to the Limit, dir. Pavlo Peleshok, 107’

From the Revolution of Dignity to full-scale war. Successful Ukrainian film producers took up arms to defend the country and cameras to capture the terrible reality. Veterans Pavlo and Yurko assembled a mosaic of causes and impacts that entailed the current Russian-Ukrainian war, from the end of 2013 to the present day, from the fragments of their memories and their film archive. The authors joined the frontline voluntarily, had been to the hot spots of Donbas, and created a homemade drone called Furia, named after one of the best aerial reconnaissance units. All the while, they continued working to show the world the truth about the horrific war that became possible in the 21st century.





Metro-tram, dir. Kateryna Yahodka, 9’

The main character of the story is the son of the good old subway and fast tram. This premature child lives in the city of Kryvyi Rih.


One Aloe, One Ficus, One Avocado and Six Dracaenas, dir. Marta Smerechynska, 8’

There is a washing machine wrapped in tape, meters-long indoor plants and their roots, and children's drawings among hundreds of boxes on which the addresses of Ukrainian cities are written. This place resembles a warehouse of lost things. The silence is broken by a woman's voice, that of the owner of one of these boxes. She is bidding farewell to her home in Kyiv, speaking of the belongings she left behind. Each item has a story, a memory that is being left behind. Through her words, the home seems to come alive, each item imbued with a sense of warmth and familiarity. People begin to appear in the so-called warehouse, taking their pieces of home in the form of parcels. They sift through the boxes, searching for their treasured possessions. Some are filled with joy, others with sadness. Meanwhile, a woman's voice questions: “Does the loss of belongings matter?”


Humans and subhumans, dir. Oleksandr Stoianov, 20’

A legal drama about human rights violations in Soviet Ukraine and modern Russia based on archival chronicles. Heimrad Backer, in some of his projects, used the text of nazi propaganda in such a way that it became self-evident, commenting on itself. For the same purpose, I use excerpts from a soviet newspaper. I title parts of the film scenes to emphasize the absurdity, theatricality, and cruelty of the trial as well as the propaganda chronicle.


Waking Up in Silence, dir. Mila Zhluktenko, Daniel Asadi Faezi, 13’

A former Wehrmacht barracks now serves as a refugee camp for people from Ukraine. Waking up in silence accompanies the children on their journey, where their own history intertwines with that of the barracks. A moment between past and future, war and silence, departure and arrival, which paints a portrait of Germany’s past and present through the eyes of its young protagonists.


Are you here, dir. Zlata Veresniak, 13’

Oryna, an 18-year-old Ukrainian girl, fled her homeland during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, while all her family, including her 7-year-old sister Ksiusha, decided to remain there. The film observes the daily remote communication between Oryna and her younger sister and reveals their close bonds of sisterhood, which remain strong despite their separation, the constant presence of the war, and the natural process of growing apart.


Chornobyl 22, dir. Oleksiy Radynski, 20’

An anonymous informant of the Ukrainian Armed Forces secretly films the movements of Russian troops in the occupied Chornobyl Exclusion Zone. Workers at the Chornobyl NPP share their experiences of living at the Russian-occupied nuclear power plant. Catastrophic scenarios from the past and present are intertwined in this macabre episode of the Russian invasion. The film was created as part of the project The Reckoning: Ukraine Testifies, which documents and investigates Russian war crimes in Ukraine.





Chergi Weavers, dir. Elena Stoycheva, 27’

A young designer arrives in a small Bulgarian village, where most inhabitants left are elderly women. She convinces the grannies to weave a new model of a traditional carpet-runner, called “chergi”. But as they start to assemble an old weaving loom, they find out that parts are missing. Now the women have to restore old knowledge and the missing links between themselves.


Aşk, dir. Vladimir Andonov, 20’

Jemal is a musician and saz player. He becomes seriously ill and doctors say he has a few months to live. His wife Barika began studying remedies and folk medicine, instead of waiting for death to come.


Benevolence, dir. Vladimir Andonov, 20’

Ghalib is a descendant of musicians from an Alevi village. When the last dede in the community dies, the villagers choose him as their religious leader, but he refuses because is still young. However, fate seemed to have something else in store for him.


Inherited Crafts, dir. Osman Mehmedov Yuseinov, 31’

“Inherited Crafts” gathers together portraits of craftspeople in Stolipinovo – a large, racially segregated urban district in Bulgaria. The film shows a cross-section of a community: young, old, modern, traditional – all with something in common, the desire to live and work in a dignified way, through hand-worked crafts. People in the film are both fragile and powerful in their raw honesty against the backdrop of increasingly precarious conditions of labor. “Inherited Crafts” carries a self-reflective style, being made by Osman Yuseinov, himself a craftsman, a master jeweller, working and living in Stolipinovo.


Elbetitsa - Mysticism and Wonder, dir. Boyana Topchiyska, 25’

Elbetitsa is an ancient symbol that has been a central element of Bulgarian culture and history for thousands of years.


Horo between Two Shores, dir. Ekaterina Minkova, 38’

At the heart of the project “Horo between two shores” are little-known and already fading rituals in the Vlach villages in Northwestern Bulgaria and Serbia, related to the funeral and memorial tradition. The rites here provoke the senses with impactful juxtapositions of the borderline theme - life and death. A topic constantly opens beyond specific regional practices. The film focuses on the lives and personal stories of several people on both sides of the border who attended their own commemoration, as dictated by local tradition. The culmination is the chorus of the dead, which is still performed in Bulgaria and Serbia on the first day of Easter in every Wallachian village. They dance with the portraits of deceased loved ones and give away red eggs, treats, and towels. And finally, everyone joins in the dance for the living. Through the stories of the local people, we will look into some ideas about the possible connections between the living and the dead. How and can one soften one’s own fear of death, what is important to accomplish in one’s life, and if there is a way to weaken the pain of separation?





OKO is a documentary film festival, but we dream of further growing and expanding our ethnographic horizons to include fiction and experimental films. Thus, this year, we have selected two Ukrainian films of this kind for the non-competition program.


Bohyni — Goddesses, dir. Sasha Theodora, 8’

In the Ukrainian tradition, the body of the deceased is washed and ritually prepared, honoring and cleansing the person’s spirit. In times of war, both the deceased and their loved ones are deprived of these rituals and final moments. In “Bohyni”, a body lies alone in a forest, in the liminal realm. The body is discovered by three goddesses who prepare its' spirit to be sent to the land of the ancestors.


The Edge of the River, dir. Vasil Barkov, 100’

According to the plot, a series of events brings the Bulgarian Fori to the Danube Delta. In the Ukrainian city of Vylkove, due to random tragic circumstances, Fory finds himself in custody. But in this city inhabited by Lipovans, the hero meets true love, and the beauty and spiritual atmosphere of “Ukrainian Venice” gives him the feeling that this is the place he was looking for all his life.

The OKO organizers are very passionate about cinema and about preserving their own cultural heritage, thus they will present their own projects as part of the special screenings.


The Place of Power, Tetiana Stanieva , 100’

At the beginning of the 19th century, Bulgarian refugees founded the village of Cheshme-Varuit, now known as Krynychne, in the Bolhrad district of Ukraine, on the shores of Lake Yalpuh, the largest one in Ukraine. For more than 200 years, they have been preserving their dialect, traditions, and folklore, making wine, and cultivating “arpadzhik” (small onions that grow from seeds). The author of the film was born in Krynychne. The plot depicts the uniqueness of Krynychne's inhabitants, the conflict between old and new, modernity and tradition, and the future and the past. The documentary makes the viewer search for an answer to the question: who am I?


Yours Vasyl, dir. Svitlana Rudiuk, Oleksandr Avsharov, 60’

The film tells us a story about a personality transformation of Ukrainian poet and dissident Vasyl Stus. He dreamed of engaging in literature, not politics; to be a famous poet, not a dissident. But the actions of the Soviet special services and the CPSU pushed him to a point of no return. How did this transformation take place? And what was “Yours Vasyl” really like?


Tales from Donbas, dir. Elena Rubashevska, 30’

Since 2014, when I lost my home for the first time, I am metaphorically referring to myself as a “tumbleweed” and trying to find the sense of the lost identity that keeps slipping away. Cities, countries, continents… Was I dreaming that once I had a home? In the “Tales from Donbas”, I am reaching back to my childhood memory and bringing out tales from my native land. During 30 minutes of a narrative experience, you will discover legends of four main industries of Donbas: the “Tale of Chalk”, the “Tale of Salt”, the “Tale of Coal”, and the “Tale of Metal”. The visual part of the project is composed of the materials I assembled during my last trip to Donbas where I was doing research for the documentary film “Symphony of Donbas”, just before the outbreak of full-scale war. Many of the shown places do not exist anymore.

Culture vs war. Kostiantyn and Vlada Liberov, dir. Kadym Tarasov, 26'

Before the full-scale invasion, a couple from Odesa, Kostiantyn and Vlada Liberov, were successful photographers: they photographed couples in love, held master classes and taught the art of photography. But after February 24, 2022, they radically changed the vector of their work: they began to work as documentary photographers in the hottest spots of the war. 
Their photos are striking, poignant, terrifying, and no one will be left unmoved by them. The works of Kostiantyn and Vlada have traveled all over the world, they are shared by thousands of users on social networks and published by the largest international media, including BBC, Associated Press, Welt, Vogue and Forbes. Photography became their weapon in the fight against the enemy. 
"If you become a documentarian, you have to film everything, because otherwise even the enemy can later view it, as if nothing had ever happened," says Vlada Liberov.

Culture vs. war. Serhii Mykhalchuk, dir. Kadym Tarasov, 10'

The name of Ukrainian cinematographer Serhii Mykhalchuk is known all over the world. The cinematographer's masterful work has been recognized by dozens of prestigious international film awards for the best cinematography and is highly respected by filmmakers. 
Serhii Mykhalchuk began documenting the events of the war from the first day of the full-scale invasion of Russia. He joined the Armed Forces and continued to tell the world the truth about the war with his photographs from the front line. 
This is the second documentary short film in the "Culture vs. war" series about Ukrainian artists who were forced to stop their creative work to defend Ukraine.

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