Early 1930s. Peter is a ten-year-old boy in the midst of turbulent Soviet Ukraine. His father, an American engineer, is killed for obtaining secret documents about the repressions, which now are hidden in Peter’s book. The boy flees from the police with a blind kobzar (Ukrainian folk minstrel), Ivan Kocherga. Ivan does everything to help his young guide to grow up and survive with a kind and clear soul that will not be hardened by what his eyes have seen. He tells his young guide elaborate stories that make him believe there can be a different reality from what he sees around him. We are challenged to admit the blind kobzar may see the world with greater clarity than those with perfect eyes.
The story of The Guide takes place in the early 1930s during the Holodomor, or Terror-Famine, when the Soviet regime killed millions of Ukrainians largely by starvation. A number of nations have formally recognized the Hlodomor as a genocide.
The Guide was filmed in 2012 and released in Ukraine in 2014. It was selected as the Ukrainian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards in 2014, It has played in festivals and in academic settings but was never released commercially in the U.S. or Western Europe.
The film’s director, Oles Sanin, is a prominent figure in Ukrainian film making. He graduated from the National University of Theater, Film and TV in Kyiv and had internships in the Netherlands and the U.S. One of Sanin’s earlier films, Mamay (2003), was also selected as Ukraine’s submission for an Academy Award. In addition to directing films, Sanin is a screenwriter, actor and musician. Among other instruments, he plays the bandura, a traditional Ukrainian folk instrument that is central to the story of The Guide.