How did you learn about MY HERO?
We initially heard about MY HERO from Eva Haller the President of Janusz Korczak Academy*, who had met MY HERO’s own Eva Haller (board member and sponsor of the Women Transforming Media Film Festival Prize) when organizing an exhibition in Venice in 2016. Eva encouraged us to submit to the festival and our film YouthBridge- My Hero – Sister Scholastica was a finalist in last year’s (2022) event.
*YouthBridge is a by-product of The European Janusz Korczak Academy, a Jewish foundation structured around the values of Janusz Korczak, a Polish Jewish educator, children’s author, and pedagogue.
Could you tell us about the making of the film?
We knew we wanted to enter the festival again and came up with the concept in August. We brainstormed various ideas and, knowing we had to limit the film to 8 minutes, we decided to focus on Max. Not only is he interesting, intelligent, talented, and unique, we knew he would interview well and we already had a lot of footage of him performing at various Shalom Ukraine events and concerts. Fortunately, we came up with the idea two days before Max was due to visit his father and brother who are still living in Ukraine so, we asked his mother, Natalia, to video the reunion. The rest of the footage came from what the other participants already had, and we used archived footage of our own. Sofia interviewed Max and his mother and then edited all of the footage together.
What in your opinion is the importance of the film?
The fact that it raises awareness about the war in Ukraine and that it is ongoing. We don’t want the world to forget about this war. We also wanted to show how the war has impacted a young person who has dreams and goals and how valuable it is for him to have a project and people who can help those dreams come true, despite the circumstances. We also wanted to pay tribute to Shalom Ukraine – a project that connects like-minded people who have shared experiences and that provides resources to help them deal with the trauma of war.
YouthBridge is all about dialogue, сombating all forms of discrimination, preventing radicalization and antisemitism. And, as the name of the project suggests, it’s not just about young people, but also about “bridges” – a symbol of how the participants of the project come from different communities and, through their participation in the project, engage in a dialogue with different cultures, religions, and ethnicities, therefore, building bridges.
We have found that the participants of Shalom Ukraine progress more quickly than other refugees because the project YouthBridge gives them the motivation and possibilities to integrate.
Do you have a mentor or a personal hero?
(Sofija) My hero is Janusz Korczak and specifically his values of Respect, Dialogue, Humanity, and Participation. These values are so important for young people, particularly participation which is not as common as the other values. I like that Korczak advocated that children should be respected and treated as equals. (See below)
How important is it to you to be a finalist and now winners at the MY HERO 19th International Film Festival?
Said Olga: ” It is a huge compliment to be a finalist this year and last. We are delighted to be able to share our story about Max and the Ukraine We threw a wonderful party to celebrate our victory. There were many tears – but unlike the tears that have been flowing since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, these were tears of joy and pride. As our main character Maxim said in the film, all the guys from the “Shalom, Ukraine” project are the real heroes. Each of them deserves to have a film made about them. So MY HERO festival will soon have plenty of films to choose the next winner from! ;)”
Said Sofiia Bondarenko: “When we were informed of our victory, we were filled with a feeling of pride and happiness that our work was appreciated, and we were able to convey the most important meaning inherent in our film. We still have a lot to tell this world, and we feel that this is just the beginning!”
Watch the film HERE.