Family Portrait in Black and White

85 min. and 52 min. English subtitles. Dist. by Third World Newsreel. 2011, released in 2014. $80. ISBN unavail.
Gr 11 Up—This complex film opens with skinheads marching in the Ukraine and one of them talking about how whites mixing with "subhumans" creates imbeciles. Attacks and bullying of people of color is routine in this tense atmosphere, with police often looking the other way. And yet, the next sequence features idyllic scenes: a group of children of all races swimming, walking on ledges, gathering eggs, playing together harmoniously and joyfully in a beautiful countryside. They are free and easy with each other, clearly the best of friends. Olga Nenya is fostering these 20 kids of different races and ages singlehandedly. "Ukraine should value each and every child," she says, and it's clear that this statement is the guiding principle in her home. The kids obviously feel loved and cared for. For the most part, they have tremendous energy, creativity, and self-esteem. This ironically sets the stage for the culture clash within the family, which centers around Olga's strict Soviet values and inability to understand individuality and freedom. The teens see opportunities for themselves that they want to take advantage of (such as becoming adopted by an Italian family), which sets them at odds with Olga and the risk of losing connections with their siblings. Deeply interesting and unique, this film is sophisticated and thoughtful. Teens will be riveted and will want to know what happens to each of the kids as they learn more about their wishes, aspirations, and dilemmas.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, San Leandro, CA

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