Family Portrait in Black and White
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Family Portrait in Black and White

Julia Ivanova (Canada, Canadian Spectrum)

Monday, May 2, 6:45 p.m.
Cumberland 2 (159 Cumberland Street)
Wednesday, May 4, 4:30 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 (350 King Street West)
Sunday, May 8, 3:30 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 (350 King Street West)

Olga Nenya is a white Ukrainian woman with a hoarding problem—and her obsession is mixed-race orphans.
Her bursting rural home is the centre of the aptly titled Family Portrait in Black and White, which exhaustively depicts the lives of the brusquely compelling Mother Olga and well over a dozen of her foster children. The film exposes a society where non-Caucasians aren’t seen as “real” Ukrainians, and where mixed-race children are often given up at birth. Olga Nenya takes these kids in under strict, selectively imposed rules.
Canadian filmmaker Julia Ivanova checks in on the family year after year—seeing some of its children thrive while others break under the pressure of Olga’s Soviet-era will. While adept at giving the children what they see as a real home, she seems determined to keep them there, going as far as crushing one child’s dream of playing professional soccer, and hiding the passport of another who has been adopted by her summer guardian.
Ivanova’s graceful cinematography gives viewers a unique perspective on poor, rural life in Ukraine. But while the scenes selected are revealing and compelling, there are many where some dialogue lacks subtitles, leaving this non-Ukrainian-speaker to wonder what has been left out.