‘Porcelain War’ takes you deep into the war against Ukraine and the art of resistance

PARK CITY, Utah — Still playing online at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival is “Porcelain War.” As the director of the film, Brendan Bellomo, says, this movie depicts “the impact of war on ordinary people, in particular, artists.” His co-director Slava Leontyev says: “We have a choice, to fight or to run away. Sooner or later you run up against the ocean and you will have to turn around and fight anyway… Our work with porcelain is our way of resisting.”

Brendon Bellomo, Director of Porcelain War. Photo: Kirsten Kohlwey

Balancing war, personal tragedies and the preservation of a lifestyle and culture

This film takes the audience into the middle of the war with all its horrors, battles, destruction and landmines, but also depicts the beautiful nature of the region, the art and the personalities of the entirely civilian team defending their hometowns. Imagine a crew of farmers, artists and others without military experience, all led by an IT specialist.

Slava Leontyev and his dog, Frodo. Photo: Kirsten Kohlwey

How it all began

The co-directors were planning to do a project before the war started. With the start of the war in Ukraine, everything changed. Slava Leontyev says, “We had to be the eyes. We had to figure out what was worth focusing on, not the atrocities.” After discussing the film with Brendan Bellomo, Leontyev called up his friend, the painter Andrey Stefanov, telling him, “Andrey, I think we have some work for you.” Stefanov had just driven his wife and children to safety, the final stretch with broken brakes. He said, “I fixed my car and drove back.”

Andrey Stefanov and his family. Photo: Kirsten Kohlwey

Teaching your crew how to use camera gear in the middle of a war

Brendan Bellomo remembered the movie “Apollo 13” and how the engineers on Earth had demonstrated every repair to the Apollo 13 crew. He promptly procured a duplicate set of the camera gear they had sent to Ukraine and taught the Ukrainian team how to use it by demonstrating it on live feeds.

Using art to fight trauma

Leontyev’s wife, Anya Stasenko, says, “Art always brings to us a feeling of happiness, and I had the feeling that I was bringing some kind of balance… It’s important to just smile once in a while.” She and Slava created porcelain figurines, and she painted on them. She also painted on drones.

Porcelain art ensures the preservation of their culture

When asked why they chose porcelain as their art medium, Brendan Bellomo said:

“Porcelain is easy to work with and fast to process. If it breaks, you can put it back together. It is eternal.”

The animations created with Anya Stasenko’s artwork were created by BluBlu Studios. Stasenko had not seen them before the premiere and was quite overwhelmed. “Through this tragedy I saw something that I always wanted to see — how my characters come to life.”

Anya Stasenko. Photo: Kirsten Kohlwey

This film grabbed the audience’s attention, and quite a few people asked about how they could help. Check out the film’s website for links to organizations that are dedicated to different aspects of help needed.

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