On February 25, a day after Russia launched a large-scale attack on their homeland, Ukrainian filmmaker Antonio Lukich and his team rushed through Kiev.
The team had wrapped up the shooting of Luckich’s second feature film, Luxembourg, Luxembourg, and the content was scattered on hard drives in various locations in Ukraine’s capital.
“We were literally rescuing the material,” Lukich said in an interview with TNZT News in Toronto.
It was the beginning of a months-long journey for the filmmaker, who vowed to protect his family but was equally determined to complete his project in time for its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival in early September, and its North American premiere. last week at the Toronto International Film Festival.
TIFF made the decision earlier this year to ban all state sponsored movies from Russia. As a result, there are no Russian films at the festival – but it does have computer programming dedicated to the presentation of Ukrainian filmmakers.
Luxembourg, Luxembourg follows the story of twin brothers, played by rappers Ramil and Amil Nasirov, who grow up in the shadow of their absent father. When they hear that their father is dying in a Luxembourg hospital, they embark on a road trip from Ukraine to see him.
Film ‘literally gave us hope’
“It is an amazing miracle for us that we have completed the film and now have the opportunity to show it to an international audience,” said Lukich.
In the days after the start of the war, post-production of Luxembourg, Luxembourg indefinitely stopped when the team broke up. Some joined the fight, while others fled the country.
Like millions of other Ukrainians displaced by the war, Lukich set out, taking his wife and three-year-old son west to his hometown of Uzhhorod, near the border between Ukraine and Slovakia. Finally they reached Slovenia.
About a month later, he returned to Kiev without his family, determined to finish the film.
“That film literally gave us hope for life,” said Lukich. “We felt it was our mission… as we’ve been making it for three years and know the potential of the film.”
A film about absent parents
Luxembourg, Luxembourg was inspired by Lukich’s relationship with his late father, from whom he was estranged.
“When he died, he left me with a huge void inside,” the director said. “That was the main fuel [for the film] – to find out who this man is who made me.”
14:40Ukrainian director Antonio Lukich on Luxembourg, Luxembourg and making art in the middle of war
Lukich’s vision for his position was further crystallized after the invasion of Ukraine began and he saw thousands of men join the army.
“It’s a film about absent parents. War doesn’t just ruin buildings; war also ruins families,” he said, pointing to the generation of men who died in World War II.
“Now we will face [again] with a huge generation of absent parents, that’s really sad.”
That’s why Lukich says he hopes his son won’t remember the day the air-raid sirens went off and he hid under the table.
It’s also why he tried to draw attention to the impact of war when he and the cast hit the red carpet in Venice earlier this month.
While there are several Ukrainian films showing at TIFF this year, Lukich is the only Ukrainian director to screen his film at the Toronto festival.
“I am privileged,” he said. “Friends and people I know don’t have the ability to appear in such beautiful places.”
Now that the world has seen his film, Lukich hopes to bring it eventually Luxembourg, Luxembourg for the public at home.