Ghosts of Belarus will be a short documentary to be released in summer 2017.
I recently had the incredible honour of interviewing and filming Valentina, a survivor of the slaughter of more than one million Belarus civilians during World War II. Now 82 years old, Valentina spent her childhood literally running for her life across Europe with her mother and her infant brother—and with ghosts, whom Valentina is certain guided her family along the way.
For the past 60 years, Valentina has worked from her memories of Europe to create hazy, surreal oil paintings of the landscapes and emergency safe havens (often barns, sheds, and chicken coops) of her childhood. The documentary will explore definitions of family and spirituality, and the relationship between memory and the creation of art.
One of the duties of the documentary medium is to capture stories before they’re lost. In January 2014, Valentina was diagnosed with stage-three lung cancer, the same disease that eventually ended her mother’s life at the age of 94. Prognosis was ominous, but on the 4th November 2014, after several months of painful treatment, Valentina received the all-clear. Ghosts of Belarus will capture her oral history to provide a context to her artwork and, crucially, preserve her life story before it vanishes—like many of Valentina’s generation.
Multi-instrumental musician to provide documentary soundtrack
I’m delighted to announce that the musician James Johnston (Gallon Drunk, Big Sexy Noise, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) will be providing the soundtrack to Ghosts of Belarus. Listen to Johnston’s stunning instrumental solo album, Hassan Falls to his Death, available at Trestle Records.
Photo credits: Many thanks to Hemogenes for Stalin Line; Witek Burkiewicz for Orsha railway station 2; Gregsintx for Smoke Plume; and Charles Tabri for Valentina.