Ukraine, Lithuania


Single mother Anna and her four children live in the front-line war zone of Donbas, Ukraine. While the outside world is made up of bombings and chaos, the family is managing to keep their home a safe haven, full of life and full of light. Every member of the family has a passion for cinema, motivating them to shoot a film inspired by their own life during a time of war. The creative process raises the question of what kind of power the magical world of cinema could have during times of disaster. How to picture war through fiction? For Anna and the children, transforming trauma into a work of art is the ultimate way to stay human.

Director's Statement

During the last two years my attitude to this film changed many times. Everything started at a cinema camp for teenagers in Ukraine. Sponsored in part by the cultural and humanitarian initiative Yellow Bus, the cinema camp opens doors to the parallel world of cinema for kids. The camps sit predominantly in the small towns of the front-line zone in the Donbas region. I was one of the mentors in the camp in Avdiivka, a town that is located on the line of separation, and is the site of the deadliest fighting in the ongoing war. At our cinema camp, the students wrote a script and filmed it in one week while we listened to the war continuing just outside, every day. At the end of the session, one of the camp teenagers invited my director of photography, Viacheslav Tsvietkov, our sound engineer Iryna Okhota, and myself to her family home in Krasnohorivka, in the “red zone” aka the front line. I immediately fell in love with this family, their home and their world. I turned to Viacheslav and said, “I have a strong feeling we could make a movie here”. For years, working as a poet, I used to come to Donbas, in the front line zone. My husband was a soldier in The Armed Forces of Ukraine. My previous films also covered women fighting during war (TAYRA and KID in the cinema-almanac INVISIBLE BATTALION, about women in combat during war). So, Avdiivka was not new to me.

However, when the cinema camp kids were being shown scenes from Bertolucci’s THE LAST EMPEROR, and shelling was going on right outside but not one of them paid any attention to the sounds -- that was new, I didn’t expect that. These same kids, when they were choosing locations to film in for their script, chose nearby minefields. There they were, kids dancing close to minefields, full of life. It was the same with the family in Krasnohorivka. Because being a civilian in war is surreal enough, but to have gotten used to war is something else completely. What was for me, as a war “tourist”, quite surreal, was for them simply daily life. The first thing we saw in Krasnohorivka was what a brave and funny family they were, in the midst of war. That’s the first film I thought I was making. Then, in workshops and labs across Europe as I started to show rough cuts and raw footage, it was repeatedly mentioned that it was the film within the film that was something quite special. When the family had decided to make the short film, some kind of surreal journey had unexpectedly begun for all of us. When the family sat down to interview each other, we experienced a deep emotional shift. I had the feeling some masks were coming off. We all, the family and film team, started to trust each other in this private world we shared. It gave me a huge feeling of responsibility for both the film and the family. The title, THE EARTH IS BLUE AS AN ORANGE, is a quote from a poem about love between a man and woman, but it is also about things that could not be combined together and yet are. We have felt this way throughout our journey of this film. Anna, the mother, is at the core of the story; she is the real director. She is the one who will choose how her children get through this. At one point, I had thought this was a film about kids, but quite late, I realised I was wrong – it was really about her. Anna is the leader of the family; the father is out of sight because there is nothing to show, he has no impact on the family. It’s as Anna says, “I am the father and the mother”. She is so strong, and has such amazing emotional power she convinces you everything will be okay. I’ve realised recently that I try to convey the same themes in so much of my work, that of home as a safe haven. You can see this most clearly in one of my short fiction films called HOME — You can kill the person, but not their sense of home, not the sense of it they have in their heart. I’ve come to the conclusion that I also have war trauma – everything I do in my creative work over the last six years has to do with this war. I choose to use “family” in my films as a stand-in for “identity”. Effectively, I’m doing the same thing as my characters – we film to escape.

Director's Biography

Writer/Director Iryna Tsilyk graduated from Kyiv National I. K. Karpenko-Kary Theatre, Cinema and Television University in TV Directing in 2005. Her previous short fiction and documentary films were presented and awarded at various international film festivals. In addition, Tsilyk has been working as a writer. Some of her works have been translated into various languages and presented at different international literary festivals.

2017 TAYRA, documentary short
2017 KID, documentary short
2016 HOME, short
2008 BLUE HOUR, short

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Iryna Tsilyk

Produced by: Anna Kapustina, Giedre Žickyte

Cinematography: Viacheslav Tsvietkov

Editing: Ivan Bannikov, Iryna Tsilyk

Sound: Jonas Maksvytis

Nominations and Awards

  • Documentary Selection 2020