A tram driver who is in love with her job

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle -

the num­ber of men is on the rise, she says.

Tram driv­ers are very loyal to their jobs: When route num­ber 3 was up­graded for three years, driv­ers had to take time off and a pay cut, but many of them waited pa­tiently for their jobs to re­sume. Se­men­nikova was out of her job for a year out of the three years it took the au­thor­i­ties to re­pair the tram lines.

Her route re­opened in 2010, and the driv­ers are happy with the im­proved work con­di­tions. The speed of trams in­creased two-fold af­ter the up­grades, from 30 to 60 kilo­me­ters per

Ed­ward Dayen, the pub­lisher of a Rus­sian lan­guage news­pa­per in San Fran­cisco.

For him, Bo­ganim’s film proved a fit­ting stab at Soviet au­thor­i­ties, some of whom still hold power in mod­ern Ukraine.

James Bond’s Ukrainian ac­tress Olga Kurylenko from “Quan­tum of So­lace” adds a celebrity mo­men­tum to it. Wear­ing a float­ing sum­mer dress, she strug­gles to act like a dev­as­tated bride whose hus­band is whisked away to put out a for­est fire on their wed­ding, which hap­pens to be the same day as the ex­plo­sion.

But to­wards the end of the first hour, she slips com­fort­ably into a part of a tor­mented woman who can­not find her peace. Land­ing a job as a tour agent in the Chornobyl zone, she seems to be more alive vis­it­ing her past with a ra­di­a­tion dosime­ter in hand. These scenes have been shot on lo­ca­tion in Chornobyl in sum­mer and win­ter of 2010, be­stow­ing a doc­u­men­tary-like pres­ence to the film.

“I am al­ways in­ter­ested in peo­ple who blend fic­tion and non-fic­tion to­gether,” said Rosen from the San Fran­cisco Film So­ci­ety. She had to watch sev­eral thou­sands of shorts and fea­tures for this fes­ti­val’s final pro­gram of 174 films, of which new di­rec­tors made sev­eral hun­dred. “I think the di­rec­tor [Bo­ganim] stroke the right bal­ance be­tween truth and a cer­tain nar­ra­tive lib­erty. It is clearly a prod­uct of vi­sion.”

While it is hard to ar­gue with the stun­ning pho­tog­ra­phy, the film’s sound leaves much to be de­sired. The Ukrainian, Rus­sian and French lan­guages spo­ken in the nar­ra­tive lends an in­ter­na­tional scope of tragedy, but it is the qual­ity of Ukrainian that irks. Clearly spo­ken by peo­ple whose first lan­guage is Rus­sian, it comes through as badly re­hearsed and un­nat­u­ral.

The work’s tim­ing is more than strik­ing. As Ja­pan marks the one-year an­niver­sary of the earth­quake and tsunami that killed thou­sands and set off a ra­di­a­tion cri­sis, “The Land of Obliv­ion” lends sym­pa­thy and un­der­stand­ing to the peo­ple af­fected by a sim­i­lar cri­sis thou­sands of miles away.

Yuliya Popova, the Kyiv Post’s for­mer life­style ed­i­tor, lives in San Fran­cisco. An ex­hi­bi­tion of a sin­gle paint­ing by un­known artists would rarely cause con­tro­versy. But this one did. That’s be­cause this par­tic­u­lar work had more pol­i­tics in it than art. It also epit­o­mized public dis­con­tent about the cur­rent state of Ukraine’s pol­i­tics.

The paint­ing called The Last Day of Rada went on dis­play briefly at Alex Art House cen­ter in Kyiv be­tween April 17 and 23. Its cen­ter­piece is Ukraine’s par­lia­ment build­ing ablaze.

The paint­ing, 80 by 120 cen­time­ters in size, be­came fa­mous vir­tu­ally overnight, as most Ukrainian me­dia ran sto­ries about it, quot­ing mul­ti­ple art crit­ics trash­ing it as “un­pro­fes­sional” and hav­ing no artis­tic value.

Yet one jour­nal­ist claimed that some­one of­fered a lump sum for the work, just to get rid of it.

“A wealthy per­son from Ukraine’s 50 rich­est list of­fered $325,000 for the paint­ing, but the au­thor re­fused to sell it. The buyer wasn’t in­ter­ested in the land­scape at all, he just wanted to de­stroy it,” said Kostyan­tyn Usov, an in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist from TVI.

But Oleksyi Va­sylenko, co-founder of the auc­tion house Zolo­toe Seche­nie that deals with mod­ern art, smirks at the con­cept that this picture has any value, call­ing the hul­la­baloo around it “child­ish.”

“The real value of this picture is at least five ze­ros less,” he says.

The picture seems to be sur­rounded in con­tro­versy.

Usov was trusted by the au­thor to keep the paint­ing un­til it went on ex­hi­bi­tion. Yet the jour­nal­ist re­fused to name ei­ther the po­ten­tial buyer or even the au­thor, who likes to call him­self Cit­i­zen Artist, al­lud­ing to the fa­mous Rus­sian project Cit­i­zen Poet, which com­bined po­etry and pol­i­tics, mak­ing satir­i­cal re­flec­tions on cur­rent events though TV and ra­dio shows.

This is not the only artis­tic al­lu­sion in­volved. The picture’s name is sim­i­lar to The Last Day of Pom­peii, a world fa­mous Rus­sian art­work by Karl Brullov, cre­ated in 1830. It de­picts the fa­mous erup­tion of Ve­su­vius vol­cano in 79 AD, which buried the towns of Pom­peii and Her­cu­la­neum in ash and pu­mice, killing the whole pop­u­la­tion.

Both the Last Day of Rada and the Last Day of Pom­peii are full of color con­trast, dom­i­nated by the orange blaze of fire. The picture of the burn­ing Rada also has lit­tle shapes of deputies flee­ing the burn­ing build­ing, while the sil­hou­ettes of passers-by on the fore­ground are star­ing and point­ing fin­gers.

The picture has a sim­ple, naive feel to it, and to a reg­u­lar con­sumer it would not look like a work of a pro­fes­sional artist. The au­thor him­self de­scribed the style as “sin­cere.”

In a writ­ten note passed to Kyiv Post though Usov, the au­thor ex­plained that peo­ple on the In­ter­net called his picture “the Ukrainian dream.”

“The idea was not mine, but I cap­tured it,” he says.

Ex­hi­bi­tion or­ga­niz­ers said they were ap­proached by a buyer un­der the nick­name Venedykt Venedyk­tovych, who owns a ship build­ing com­pany and col­lects art. Yu­lia Filo­nenko, the show's cu­ra­tor, said that per­son’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive said he had no in­ten­tion of de­stroy­ing the work, though, and wanted it for its artis­tic value.

The au­thor told Kyiv Post he had sev­eral of­fers, mostly from Rus­sians. “But I am ex­pect­ing an of­fer that would al­low the picture to breathe – stay vis­i­ble and, ide­ally, in the coun­try,” he said.

Filo­nenko says the paint­ing has caused so much con­tro­versy be­cause it hit the bull’s eye in a na­tion where peo­ple are sorely dis­ap­pointed with politi­cians of all colors and ranks.

“This picture is a first shot from the bow. Changes are com­ing forth,” she says.

Staff writer Anas­ta­sia Forina can be reached at [email protected]

Tetyana Se­men­nikova is a happy tram driver. (Kostyan­tyn Ch­er­nichkin)

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