Samuel Goldwyn Films has acquired U.S. rights to Ukrainian director Maryna Er Gorbach’s harrowing anti-war drama “Klondike,” a powerful and timely portrait of the horrors of warfare that the company will release in theaters and on digital platforms later this year.
Submitted as Ukraine’s official entry in the best international feature film race for the 95th Academy Awards, “Klondike” had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, where it was the first Ukrainian feature ever selected for the World Dramatic Competition and took home directing honors for Er Gorbach. The film is also playing at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in the Special Screenings section.
“Klondike” tells the story of a Ukrainian family living on a small farmstead on the Ukraine-Russia border around the 2014 outbreak of the Donbass war. Largely told from the viewpoint of the pregnant Irka (Oxana Cherkashyna), the film begins on the day a Malaysia Airlines passenger flight was shot down, killing nearly 300 people, and follows simmering tensions as armed separatist forces beset the family’s village. Despite the threat of imminent violence, however, Irka refuses to flee.
Last year’s virtual Sundance premiere occurred one month before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The film was released theatrically in Ukraine in October 2022, with two of its actors, Oleg Shcherbina (Yaryk) and Oleg Shevchuk (Sanya), currently serving in the Ukrainian army.
Variety’s Guy Lodge, in a rave review of Er Gorbach’s “uncompromising, formally remarkable” feature, wrote: “Personal and political turmoil face a serene camera in ‘Klondike,’ a vision of the ongoing war in Donbass that brooks no compromise in depicting the severe impact of the conflict on the region’s civilians — in particular, the innocent women to whom the film is dedicated.”
Among a slew of accolades racked up during a lengthy festival run, “Klondike” won the Ecumenical Jury award in the Panorama strand at the 2022 Berlin Film Festival, as well as the grand jury prize at the Seattle International Film Festival, best director in Sarajevo and best international film at Chile’s 18th Santiago International Film Festival (Sanfic).
“We are excited to bring Maryna’s incredibly important film to U.S. audiences,” said Samuel Goldwyn Films’ VP of acquisitions and sales Miles Fineburg. “This beautiful film is about the difficult reality still facing the people of Ukraine.”
“Klondike” is produced by Maryna Er Gorbach, Mehmet Bahadir Er and Sviatoslav Bulakovskyi. The deal was negotiated by Miles Fineburg on behalf of Samuel Goldwyn Films and Francesca Vantaggiato of Arthood Entertainment on behalf of the producers.