War thriller “Unspoken,” based on multiple true stories from invaded Ukraine, will be presented at Series Mania’s Forum Co-Pro Pitching Sessions in March.
Produced by Match & Spark (Poland), Toy Cinema and 2Brave Productions (Ukraine), the six-episode series – taking place during the very first days of full-scale war – is created by Filip Syczyński, who is co-writing with Zhanna Ozirna.
“This war has affected everyone in the world in a profound way. For me, it immediately posed the question: ‘What would I do to save my family? How far would I go?’,” wonders Syczyński.
His protagonist Evgeniy, on his way from Poland to the heart of darkness in Ukraine, has only one thing on his mind: Saving his wife and kids from the danger of Russian invasion. His time and tools are limited, however, and the only connection he has with his family is through his phone.
“My personal story was similar: I too was separated from my family and needed to get them out of Ukraine. There are many, many stories like this. Not all of them end well,” notes producer Dmytro Sukhanov, speaking to Variety over Zoom.
“When the invasion started, there were two ‘queues’ forming: People who were trying to escape and people who were coming back to help.”
2Brave Productions’ Natalia Libet adds: “We will offer another view on these events. When most try to flee, our protagonist goes the opposite way. We don’t see his family, we only hear them, but he still teaches them how to survive.”
Libet, in Berlin with two projects – Ruslan Batytskyi’s “The Blindsight,” presented at the Co-Production Market, and Panorama entry “Do You Love Me?” by Tonia Noyabrova – recently picked up two awards at IFFR’s CineMart for Marina Stepanska’s “Consider Vera.”
The priority is to shoot soon, argues the team.
“We really feel this show is so urgent, so timely. Which is why we need to put extra pressure on platforms, in a way. We can’t keep developing it for, say, another two years,” stresses Anna Różalska of Polish outfit Match & Spark.
The project, awarded a grant from Ukrainian Film Academy in partnership with Netflix, is a result of a “natural collaboration,” she adds.
“The experience of war, happening before our eyes, united us all. As human beings, but also as filmmakers. Some people just want this to be over so that business can go back to normal. But people need to understand that Ukraine is fighting for our freedom. It’s really our war, too,” she says.
While the show’s protagonist is a “normal guy,” points out Libet, a retired veteran of the conflict that started back in 2014, his goal is a relatable one.
“He wants his family to survive. But he is not Superman or Bruce Willis’ John McClane.”
“It’s really about this tension between him and his family. It’s a bit like in ‘The Guilty’ or [Steven Knight’s] ‘Locke,’” chimes in Różalska. “That’s why we decided the episodes should be short – otherwise this tension would be hard to sustain.”
As well as the workload, especially during such difficult times. But “Unspoken” scribe Ozirna kept soldiering on despite electricity shortages, writing by candlelight whenever necessary.
“It was very emotional, seeing these pictures she sent us,” says Różalska.
“That’s how our writer is making sure the world will see Evgeniy’s story and the story of our Ukrainian friends. That’s how this story is being made.