There simply weren’t enough words to describe the flea market in front of us. It was of substantial size, crowded, loud, chaotic, and above all, full of life. The exact type of market you’d want to find on a gloomy autumn day in Kyiv. A welcome surprise, because the day had started off not too exciting. We had stuffed ourselves in Oksana’s old Skoda, what we’d lovingly called “our company car”, and drove across the bustling streets of the city, looking for new places to inspire us. Thus far the trip had been quite boring, to be honest. The weather was not much to look at, and raindrops drizzled down our front window. But, when we finally came across the market, we knew our day would be fruitful.
We strolled past all kinds of vendors, chatting up the sellers, inspecting the various trinkets they had on display. After a while, we simultaneously came to a hold when we noticed a middle-aged man hoisting bright-colored posters out of his car. Vintage Eastern European and Soviet era posters are some of our favorite things to collect, so we enthusiastically approached the man. Looking closer, we noticed these weren't regular posters, but movie posters the man was selling. Now, this was interesting, because we hadn’t found any vintage movie posters on our travels yet.
The man let us look through his wares and our eye fell on a striking blue and red poster of the movie “повінь”, or “flood” in English. ‘Truly sorrowful’ were words that came to mind when looking at the face of the lady on the poster. The background a small flooded farmers' village. Yes, this was probably artwork designed for a tragic drama. It looked amazing, we had to take her home.
When the seller noticed our enthusiasm, he beckoned us to come to the trunk of his car, and when we looked inside, we found he had even more posters to sell. We went through the pile of the amazing artwork in his car and found a poster of the film “Tayozhnaya povest” (“A Taiga Story”), decorated with a drawing of a couple in an intimate setting. And then, just as we were about to pay and continue our journey, we noticed another. The drawing on this piece is of a powerful woman, matching the title of the film “Дочь Стратиона” or, “Stration’s Daughter”. We knew we had to take that one with us as well.
We watched as the seller carefully packed the three masterpieces, thanked the man, and went on our way to our next potential treasure.
The interesting origins of these posters
Because we knew not too much of movies in the former Soviet Union, we decided to research the origins of the posters.
Founded in 1907, Odessa Film Studio (Одеська кіностудія художніх фільмів in Ukrainian) is the first film studio established in the Russian Empire. It is one of the two larger cinema studios in Ukraine that are partially government state-owned. Odessa is known as “Ukrainian Hollywood”, with the movies becoming so popular the studio decided to create a technical school on-site, training actors, directors, cameramen, and lightning engineers to support the business.
Our poster of “Stration’s Daughter” is a promotional piece for the 1964 Odessa film. “Stration’s Daughter” is a rather patriotic black and white movie about a brave woman named Galinka who is willing to give up everything to save her father and her country from the Gestapo. The movie is freely available on YouTube, so give it a watch if your Ukrainian is good enough!
“A Taiga Story” is not of Ukrainian, but of Russian origin. The film tells the story of a lonely hunter who finds a dying girl in his cabin in the woods. Against his better judgment, he nurses her back to life. Slowly, they start to fall for each other, but there appear to be too many differences for them to remain together. The romantic drama was made in 1979 by Lenfilm Studio, a film studio located in Leningrad, the city we now know as Saint Petersburg.
Just like Odessa, Lenfilm studios is a state-funded film industry. In the second world war, the studio played a big role in producing patriotic anti-Nazi documentaries. From the 1970s to the 1990s famous American directors and actors came to the studio to film there, and by the end of the Soviet Union era, many film classics had been produced there, with lots of them winning famous awards.
The true story of the “Flood” movie remains a mystery. After researching the poster and various websites we’ve discovered that the movie is made in Belarus (Minsk, the Byelorussian SSR), not Ukraine and that it is an art-house movie, filmed in the 1960s. The poster is created by a talented artist, V. Garkusch. If your interests lay in a unique piece of art of mysterious origin, definitely check out our “Flood”!
Written by Julia Christiaanse