Set in 1930s Ukraine, as Stalin advances the ambitions of communists in the Kremlin, young artist Yuri battles to save his lover Natalka from the Holodomor, the death-by-starvation program that ultimately killed millions of Ukrainians.
Set between the two World Wars and based on true historical events, BITTER HARVEST conveys the untold story of the Holodomor, the genocidal famine engineered by the tyrant Joseph Stalin. The film displays a powerful tale of love, honour, rebellion and survival at a time when Ukraine was forced to adjust to the horrifying territorial ambitions of the burgeoning Soviet Union. With an exceptional cast of established and rising stars, the film epically recreates one of the most dramatic and dangerous episodes in the history of 20th Century Europe.
The Holodomor in Ukraine, the genocidal famine planned by Stalin and his commissars that killed millions in 1932-33, was a Soviet policy of forced starvation and is a cruel little known period in the history of the 20th century. Maybe it was too optimistic to try and cover the fall of the Russian czar, WW1, the Bolshevik/Russian revolution, the death of Lenin and the rise of Stalin and the genocidal famine in Ukraine, in 100 minutes. And then make all the horror of that period less terrible with a hopeful love story. Too much horrible history in too little time. However, someone had to try so kudos to the director for that effort. That period of history was deeply cruel and it's hard to imagine how else to make the story palatable. Visually, the movie is terrific. The brutality in some scenes, although no doubt historically accurate, is tough to watch. I thought the local commissar was very effective in his cruelty, and in comparison, the Stalin figure almost seemed like a lightweight. A number of the professional critic reviews sound downright snarky. This isn't an easy move to watch or an easy story to tell. And while there is plenty of room for suggestions of how to improve, it is not a movie of no value as some wrote. The accusations of exaggeration and melodrama are actually bizarre. I think the famine and the horrors of communism, which my parents and grandparents lived through, were no doubt much worse than depicted here.
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