50 Ukrainian docs you must watch to understand Ukraine

by CinephileInAction | created - 1 month ago | updated - 3 days ago | Public

Choose 50 films made by Ukrainian filmmakers to better understand Europe's largest country torn by the war but invincible, and appreciate the importance of standing with Ukraine.

Unfortunately, many prominent Ukrainian documentaries are not listed on IMDb, particularly those made in Soviet times (some of them were forbidden and many ignored and even by now they have not been entered here). For example, "Kermanychi" (dir. Ihor Grabovskyi, 1965), "Osvidchennia v kokhanni" (dir. Rollan Serhiyenko, 1966), "Sonata pro khudozhnyka" (dir. Viktor Shkurin, 1966) or a film trilogy by Arkadiy Mikulsky about Oleh Olzhych "Ya kamin iz Bozhoyi praschi...". The body of documentaries about Ukrainian history (e.g. a must see 108 episodes series "Unknown Ukraine. Essays of our History") also missing here.

Foreign films unless co/produced by Ukrainians are not included.

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1. One Day in Ukraine (2022)

77 min | Documentary, Drama, War

This film plays out in Ukraine on a single day: March 14, 2022, the 2,944th day of the Russian-Ukrainian War. In the last few weeks, intense warfare has surreally mixed places and people ... See full summary »

Director: Volodymyr Tykhyy | Stars: Darya Astafieva, Ihor Lutsenko, Yevhen Nyshchuk, Roman Ratushnyy

Votes: 15

2. Free Man. Pilgrimage (2022)

99 min | Documentary

This is an incredible story of Valerii Markus (Valerii Ananiev), a paratrooper of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, a veteran of the Anti-Terrorist Operation, a blogger, traveler and author of ... See full summary »

Director: Sergii Dmytrenko | Stars: Valerii Ananiev, Oleksandr Polozhynskyi, Yanina Sokolova

3. Ukraine on Fire 2 (2022– )

Documentary, Action, Biography

'Ukraine on Fire 2' is one-minute docu-series about the Russia's war on Ukraine.

Stars: Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, Petro Poroshenko, Vitali Klitschko

Votes: 55

4. Romani Dance (2021)

15 min | Documentary, Short

It's a short documentary centering Alyona Kazanska, a Roma activist who retells the story of her life in the Roma community. Based on Alyona's personal diaries, the film inundates the ... See full summary »

Director: Vitaliy Gavura | Star: Alyona Kazanska

5. Ivan's Land (2021)

86 min | Documentary

Ivan Prykhodko is one of the last folk artists in Ukraine. He is self-taught, lives in the countryside, and everything that comes from under his brushes is naive and honest art. Ivan's ... See full summary »

Director: Andrii Lysetskyi

Votes: 26

6. Salt from Bonneville (2021)

72 min | Documentary, Drama, Sport

The story is about Nazar and Max, two guys from Ukraine, and an old Soviet bike, and the ambitious goal they set themselves to beat the world speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats in ... See full summary »

Director: Simon Mozgovyi

Votes: 19

7. UKE: The Untold Story of Hockey Legends (2020)

90 min | Documentary, History, Sport

The Untold Story of Hockey Legends

Director: Volodymyr Mula | Stars: Johnny Bucyk, Jeff Chychrun, Ken Daneyko, Bruce Driver

Votes: 72

8. Inner Wars (2020)

68 min | Documentary, War

Since the uprising of a pro Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine in 2014, hundreds of woman joined the army. Only a few made it to the front line. Filmmaker Masha embeds herself in the war... See full summary »

Director: Masha Kondakova

Votes: 63

10. Breaking into Baikonur (2020)

68 min | Documentary

Compromising on their own lives, two Ukrainian researchers go to the classified territory of Cosmodrome Baikonur to watch the launch of the Soyuz rocket. The protagonist, researcher Dmytro ... See full summary »

Director: Angel Angelov

Votes: 31

11. Back to Basics.Wedding (2020)

80 min | Documentary

Full-length documentary about wedding customs and rites from different parts of Ukraine. The film will immerse the viewer in the world of rich, striking and diverse wedding culture of 8 ... See full summary »

Director: Oleksii Huz

Votes: 18

12. Demon (2020)

88 min | Documentary

The film investigates the kidnapping and alleged murder of a young Ukrainian soldier in the Donbas region in 2014. His father, an elderly fisherman from the south of Ukraine, follows the ... See full summary »

Director: Yegor Troyanovsky

Votes: 21

13. Vkhid cherez balkon (2020)

26 min | Documentary, Short

An engaging love letter to Ukraine and its people, Enter Through the Balcony examines how architecture can be a curious pathway to a deeper understanding of culture and place.

Director: Roman Blazhan

Votes: 11

14. Chendej's Shadows (2020)

Short, Biography, History

Rediscovering Chendej's role in making one of the best movies, «Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors», a timeless Carpathian love story and cinematic image of Ukrainian spirituality.

Director: Vyacheslav Bihun | Stars: Mariya Chendej, Mariya Chendej-Treschak, Olena Chyzhova, Yuriy Garmash

Votes: 31

15. Yours Vasyl (2020)

60 min | Documentary

Vasyl Stus dreamed of engaging in literature, not politics; to be a famous poet, not a dissident. But the Soviet special services and the CPSU pushed him to a point of no return. How did ... See full summary »

Directors: Aleksandr Avsharov, Svitlana Rudiuk

16. War Note (2020)

72 min | Documentary

Personal videos from the phones, camcorders, cameras and GoPros of Ukrainian soldiers are woven into a surreal journey to the front line of the war with Russia. The film shows a bizarre ... See full summary »

Director: Roman Liubyi

Votes: 80

17. Mnohaya lita. Stoyko (2020)

59 min | Documentary, Biography, Family

A 100-year-old Ukrainian scholar's inspirational story about longevity, mentality and nature.

Director: Vyacheslav Bihun | Stars: Stepan Stoyko, Rostyslav Stoyka, Natalija Bekhta, Ihor Yukhnovskyi

Votes: 37

18. The Earth Is Blue as an Orange (2020)

74 min | Documentary, War

78 Metascore

To cope with the daily trauma of living in a war-zone, Anna and her children are making a film together about their life in the most surreal surroundings.

Director: Iryna Tsilyk | Stars: Ganna Gladka, Stanislav Gladky, Anastasiia Trofymchuk, Myroslava Trofymchuk

Votes: 576

20. Ukraïner. The Movie (2019)

85 min | Documentary

The story of the everyday life of one of the most unknown countries on the European continent. The film tells the stories of heroes from different parts of Ukraine, their life and life, ... See full summary »

Director: Mykola Nosok

Votes: 13

21. 1944. Deportation (2019)

61 min | Documentary

In 1944 Crimean Tatars has suffered a long road in exile. It was accompanied by famine, illness and loss. In the first years of exile, almost half of deported Crimean Tatars died. But those... See full summary »

Directors: Fatima Osman, Yunus Pasha

22. Verdict 19 (2019)

75 min | Documentary, Biography, Drama

A motivational drama about the first candidate for the newly formed Anti-Corruption Court who returns to Ukraine, known as the most corrupt continental state in Europe, to probe himself and the system by participating in the contest.

Director: Vyacheslav Bihun | Stars: Oleksandr Merezhko, Oleksandr Batanov, Vyacheslav Bihun, Volodymyr Butenko

Votes: 69

23. Askania Reserve (2019)

75 min | Documentary

The narrative of the film centres around four characters with entirely different attitudes, destinies, and life goals. However, they share the desire to preserve life inside the largest ... See full summary »

Director: Andriy Lytvynenko

Votes: 23

24. A Portrait on the Background of Mountains (2019)

85 min | Documentary

This is a story about the mysterious connection between the present and the past, as reflected in the photo negatives discovered by chance.

Director: Max Rudenko

Votes: 18

25. Gogol Doc (2018)

66 min | Documentary

Ukraine is hardly visible on the map of the world. At the same time, it is one of the very few countries that have a positive image of future. There is no festival like GOGOLFEST in the ... See full summary »

Director: Alisa Pavlovskaya

Votes: 9

26. Home Games (2018)

86 min | Documentary

Home Games is a broken fairytale depicting a crucial moment in the life of Alina, a 20-year-old "million dollar baby" from Kyiv, whose passion for football has a chance of saving her from poverty.

Director: Alisa Kovalenko | Star: Alina Shilova

Votes: 37

27. Strong in Spirit (2018)

20 min | Animation, Short, Adventure

Traveling to a neighbouring country, a remarkable young man becomes a political prisoner: his body and soul are put to test, manifesting the spirit of his nation.

Director: Vyacheslav Bihun | Stars: Yuriy Yatsenko, Pyotr Zaikin, Bohdan Yarychevsky, Maria Tomak

Votes: 128

28. The Wonderful Years (2018)

9 min | Documentary, Short

The research film "The Wonderful Years" explores the lives of queer women in Ukraine in the late Soviet Union. It is based on the archive video materials and interviews excerpts from the research projects on LGBT history.

Directors: Svitlana Shymko, Galina Yarmanova

Votes: 6

29. The Cacophony of Donbas (2018)

62 min | Documentary

This is a film-reflection. The idea of the film is to study the myth of Donbas using archives of documentary and feature films.

Director: Igor Minaiev

Votes: 25

30. Holiday (II) (2018)

16 min | Documentary, Short

In a Southern Ukrainian city, the people are out to celebrate an important national holiday. Old and new symbols, the search for identity, and an opportunity for understanding between ... See full summary »

Director: Zhanna Maksymenko-Dovhych

31. No obvious signs (2018)

64 min | Documentary, Drama

What is left backstage of the heroic videos of our warriors in Ukraine? What do they have to face, one on one, in peaceful life, and where does the war stop?

Director: Alina Gorlova | Star: Oksana Yakubova

Votes: 40

32. Myth (II) (2018)

63 min | Documentary, Biography

The film is the remarkable and tragic story of Wassyl Slipak; Ukrainian opera singer whose unique voice and talent brought him world recognition and death on the war.

Directors: Leonid Kanter, Ivan Yasniy | Star: Orest Slipak

Votes: 126

33. Whereufrom (2017)

71 min | Documentary

Zhenya is 45 years old, he lives in Ukraine, and works as a street cleaner. His mother lives in the US and got him a green card. To maintain it, he has to travel to America every year. ... See full summary »

Director: Dimitri Lavrinenko

34. Kinematografist (2017)

70 min | Documentary

Grigoriy is 88 years old, he lives all his life in the lonely Ukrainian village, keeps shooting on 16 mm his neighbors who has no truly remembrance of their past.

Director: Marina Stepanska

35. Invisible Battalion (2017)

Documentary, Drama, War

Despite the stereotypes, the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine involves Ukrainian women too. The "Invisible Battalion" will show the world the role of women in the war.

Directors: Alina Gorlova, Svitlana Lishchinska, Iryna Tsilyk | Stars: Olena Bilozerska, Yulia Matvienko, Yulia Paievska, Andriana Susak

Votes: 12

36. Delta (2017)

82 min | Documentary

White winter blizzard covers everything. We can rely now only on saints, on our prayers. The future has sailed away, with us left behind. Astray, we did not board the magic ship. The task ... See full summary »

Director: Oleksandr Techynskyi

Votes: 21

37. Slovo House (2017)

81 min | Documentary

The extraordinary story of Ukraine's "Slovo House".

Director: Taras Tomenko

Votes: 58

38. Mama's Heart. Gongadze (2017)

100 min | Documentary, Biography, Crime

Most intimate, heartbreaking and inspiring confessions by and about Lesya Gongadze's life and her son's disappearance that prompted a revolution.

Director: Vyacheslav Bihun | Stars: Lesya Gongadze, Georgiy Gongadze, Lubomyr Husar, Tamila Alexanian

Votes: 539

39. Between Hell and Paradise (2017)

15 min | Documentary, Short, Drama

A family settles in a picturesque place. Next, a living monster grows next to their house: a 60-meter-high burning slag-heap, an ecological bomb. The fight for their rights brings them to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Directors: Vyacheslav Bihun, Dmytro Tiazhlov | Stars: Alla Vakiv, Yaryna Ostapyk, Nazar Kulchytskyy, Yelyzaveta Alekseyeva

Votes: 93

41. Breaking Point: The War for Democracy in Ukraine (2017)

98 min | Documentary

83 Metascore

BREAKING POINT: The War for Democracy in Ukraine looks at people transformed by a democratic revolution, who give up their normal lives to fight a Russian invasion, in a war which has killed 10,000 and displaced 1.9 million Ukrainians.

Directors: Mark Jonathan Harris, Oles Sanin

Votes: 227

42. Close Relations (2016)

112 min | Documentary

Russian citizen and Soviet-born Ukrainian native Vitaly Mansky crisscrosses Ukraine to explore Ukrainian society after the Maidan revolution as mirrored within his own large Ukrainian ... See full summary »

Director: Vitaliy Manskiy

Votes: 257

43. Closest to God (2016)

20 min | Documentary, Short, Drama

A Ukraine's epic story about two families torn by war.

Director: Vyacheslav Bihun | Stars: Iryna, Oleksiy Tyschyk, Anastasia, Julia

Votes: 80

44. A Letter to Tarkovsky (2016)

Documentary, Short

A documentary visualizes a candid personal letter to Andrei Tarkovsky.

Director: Vyacheslav Bihun | Stars: Vyacheslav Bihun, Justyn Bihun-Sikorsky

Votes: 78

45. Ten Seconds (II) (2016)

70 min | Documentary

This is a film about the people and a city lost in time and space. It's about the speed at which life can change and about things that remain constant no matter what. The film is based on ... See full summary »

Director: Yuliia Hontaruk

Votes: 15