One year ago today, Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine, at once catapulting Europe into chaos. Since then, the European and global community has imposed strict sanctions on Russia, sent arms and money to Ukraine, and accepted refugees fleeing the war-torn country.
The effects of the invasion have been widespread - thousands of Ukrainians have lost their lives and millions have left the country, the financial cost of sanctions and fuel and food supply issues have caused prices to rise internationally, and of course Ukraine has effectively become a no-go area for those not involved in the conflict.
This means that the country, which for the last few years was up and coming as a film hub, has seen almost all film TV production grind to a halt as the constant threat of shelling has made filming in the country untenable.
However, over the years Ukraine has provided the backdrop to several great films and TV shows, and there is hope that it will continue to do so when peace comes to the country again.
Kyiv, the capital city, and a focal point of the conflict for much of the last year, has played host to major productions - these are five of the best films and TV shows shot in the capital:
What films and TV shows have been filmed in Ukraine?
Five part drama series about the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, starring Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, and Paul Ritter, was partly filmed on location in Ukraine. The series, set during the time that Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, follows the fallout from the disaster itself and attempts by soviet authorities to cover it up.
It was not possible to film at and around the actual Chernobyl power plant, as the area is still dangerously radioactive, much of the filming took place in Vilnius, Lithuania. However Kyiv was also used as a stand-in for soviet cities including Moscow and Minsk.
Oscar-nominated Telugu film RRR was partly shot in Ukraine, specifically near the Mariinsky Palace and Mezhyhirya. Appropriately, the film follows two unlikely friends who fight for freedom against their despotic, imperialist rulers - a rough parallel of the Ukraine conflict.
The film has gained attention for the hit song Naatu Naatu, which has been nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Song - the iconic dance scene from the song was also filmed in the capital, Kyiv.
The Death of Stalin
British comedy The Death of Stalin, a two-hour mickey-take of the ‘Man of Steel’, was banned in Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan on its release - a member of Russia’s culture ministry said of the black comedy: “I’ve never seen anything so disgusting in my life”.
Despite being an historical comedy, there are some similarities between the confused and paranoid upper echelons of the soviet halls of power, and Putin’s current regime. Scenes shot in Kyiv include exterior scenes and exterior shots of the Public Enemies building and NKVD building.
Servant of the People
In a bizarre twist of fate, Volodymyr Zelenskyy played a high school teacher who found himself propelled into the position of Ukraine’s president in this sitcom - the show aired from 2015-2019, the same year that he became the real-life President of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian-language series was largely filmed at Kyiv’s grand Expocenter of Ukraine, as well as on location on the city’s streets. Much like his character in the show, Zelenskyy has proved popular with the Ukrainian people and internationally as he has led the defence of Ukraine from inside the country, refusing offers of sanctuary from other powers.
Man with a Movie Camera
A staple of most film studies classes, Man with a Movie Camera is a pioneering soviet silent documentary film made in 1929. The avant-garde film features a man travelling the USSR shooting on location at four major cities.
In the BFI’s Sight and Sound poll 2022 it was voted the ninth greatest film of all time, although because of its arthouse nature it doesn’t have mass appeal. The film was shot in Moscow and three Ukrainian cities - Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa.
Has the Russian invasion of Ukraine affected film production?
Tax incentives offered by Ukraine for film projects in 2020 were designed to make the country a more attractive filming destination, and one to rival the likes of Hungary where major projects including The Last Kingdom, The Witcher, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, and several Marvel films and shows gave been shot.
However, the Russian invasion has put paid to these plans, for now at least.The first series of Croatian. Russian, and Ukrainian language crime drama Zlomovchannya (Silence), was released on HBO Europe in 2021, but a planned second season, due to be shot in Ukraine and Russia, has seemingly been scrapped due to the conflict.
According to the Budapest Reported, series producer Nebojsa Taraba said in the wake of the invasion: “Two weeks ago, I was talking to our Russian and Ukrainian partners about plans for a second season of our series Silence…One day, we’re talking locations, scripts and production logistics. The next, there’s the invasion and Kyiv is on fire.”
The international community has also rallied around Ukraine in the wake of the invasion - The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that companies including Netflix and the BBC are prebuying or investing in coproducing Ukrainian content.
Additionally, several major documentaries have been filmed in Ukraine over the course of the invasion, including Ukraine’s War Diaries, Frontline, and Citizens at War: A Year in Ukraine.