Bitter Harvest (2017 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||George Mendeluk|
|Produced by||Ian Ihnatowycz|
|Written by||Richard Bachynsky Hoover
|Music by||Benjamin Wallfisch|
|Edited by||Stuart Baird
|Distributed by||Roadside Attractions
B&H Film Distribution Company, D Films Canada
|Box office||$557,241 (US)|
Bitter Harvest is a 2017 romantic-action drama film set in Soviet Ukraine in the early 1930s. The film was directed by George Mendeluk and the original story and script was written by Richard Bachynsky Hoover, who collaborated on the final shooting script phase with director George Mendeluk. The film stars Max Irons, Samantha Barks, Barry Pepper, Tamer Hassan and Terence Stamp. The film is produced by Ian Ihnatowycz. Stuart Baird, George Mendeluk, Chad Barager. Dennis Davidson, Peter D. Graves and William J. Immerman serve as executive producers along with Richard Bachynsky Hoover.
Inspired by actual events, Bitter Harvest follows two lovers, played by Irons and Barks, struggling with their kulak grain farmer families to survive as Joseph Stalin's collectivisation campaign begins to cause a famine-genocide in the Soviet Ukraine during the Soviet famine of 1932–33. Yuri, an artist from a family of revolutionaries, slowly becomes entangled with the anti-Bolshevik resistance at school in Kyiv, while his family and childhood sweetheart Natalka are crushed by Stalin's policies at home.
- Max Irons as Yuri
- Samantha Barks as Natalka
- Barry Pepper as Yaroslav
- Tamer Hassan as Sergei
- Terence Stamp as Ivan
- Aneurin Barnard as Mykola
- Tom Austen as Taras
- Richard Brake as Medved
- Gary Oliver as Joseph Stalin
Ukrainian Canadian screenwriter Richard Bachynsky Hoover conceived the idea for the film during a 1999 visit to Ukraine. During his subsequent research into his heritage, which included a 2004 visit to Kyiv during the Orange Revolution, he learned that the Holodomor had yet to be dramatized in a film. In 2008, Bachynsky Hoover sought financing for such a film from the Ukrainian Government and various Ukrainian oligarchs, who were not interested. In 2011, he approached fellow Ukrainian Canadian investor Ian Ihnatowycz, who committed to financing the $21 million film in its entirety.
The film was originally titled The Devil's Harvest. Filmed on location in Ukraine, the film's cast includes Barry Pepper, Tamer Hassan and Terence Stamp. In his attempt to help uncover certain parts of Kremlin history, producer Ian Ihnatowycz stated, "Given the importance of the Holodomor, and that few outside Ukraine knew about this man-made famine because it had been covered up by the Kremlin regime, this chapter of history needed to be told in English on the silver screen for the first time in feature film history."
Filming began in Ukraine by November 15, 2013. On February 5, 2014, Variety reported that the shoot had just ended in Kyiv. Several local crew took part in the simultaneously held Euromaidan demonstrations.
In early 2014, post-production continued at London's Pinewood Studios, using the official James Bond filming tank for under-water filming. Skyfall editor Stuart Baird and SFX teams worked on the film in post production.
The film was acquired by Roadside Attractions for a 1st quarter 2017 US release. Roadside Attractions released the film in the US on February 24, 2017. "D" Films Canada will launch Bitter Harvest on March 3 in Canada as well as many other film distributors who have bought the rights for the film in major countries globally who will also launch the film during the first quarter of 2017.
The final US box office sales were $557,241. Its widest release was in 127 theaters.
Bitter Harvest received generally negative reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 10% approval rating, based on 52 reviews. The consensus says, "Bitter Harvest lives down to its title with a clichéd wartime romance whose clumsy melodrama dishonors the victims of the real-life horrors it uses as a backdrop." The Sydney Morning Herald called the film "a rousing tale with political pertinence", and George Weigel of the National Review wrote that "the film, while perhaps not great cinema, succeeds in personalizing the Holodomor and reminding us that this genocide happened". Several reviews agreed that the film would raise awareness but did not do justice to the subject matter, with Peter Debruge of Variety stating that "there can be no doubt that the events deserve a more compelling and responsible treatment than this." Sheri Linden of the Los Angeles Times called the film "utterly devoid of emotional impact".
Michael O'Sullivan wrote for The Washington Post, "The Holodomor – an early 1930s famine in which millions of people in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, are said to have died [our italics] when their foodstuffs were confiscated by the central Soviet government under Joseph Stalin - could have made for a tale of great, stirring tragedy on the silver screen. ‘Bitter Harvest,’ alas, is not that movie..." The Ukrainian-American Coordinating Council (UACC) subsequently wrote a statement claiming that O'Sullivan was denying that the Holodomor actually took place; The Washington Post later posted an editor's note clarifying that the Holodomor was an actual historic event, and that the reviewer was not denying the fact.
In a rare positive review, Adrian Bryttan of The Ukrainian Weekly praised the film:
Director George Mendeluk is first and foremost a master storyteller, breathing vivid life into the nuanced characters in his epic-romance ... Richly layered and rewarding repeated viewings, Bitter Harvest is the world-class Ukrainian art film of our time."
- "A Love Story Set Amid The Holodomor, Ukraine's 20th-Century Famine, Hits The Big Screen". Radio Free Europe. February 4, 2017. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
- Barraclough, Leo (February 5, 2014). "White Queen Star Max Irons Finishes Ukraine Shoot for Devil's Harvest". Variety. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
- Trumbore, Dave (4 February 2014). "First-Look Images from THE DEVIL'S HARVEST Starring Terence Stamp, Max Irons, and Barry Pepper". Collider.com. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
- Francis, Diane (October 14, 2015). "New Movie Reveals Russia's Attempts to Destroy Ukraine". Atlantic Council.
- Mitchell, Wendy (15 November 2013). "Max Irons, Samantha Barks go for Harvest". Screendaily.com. Archived from the original on November 19, 2013. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
- McNary, Dave (August 9, 2016). "Max Irons-Samantha Barks’ Ukraine Drama ‘Bitter Harvest’ Bought by Roadside". Variety. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
- "Bitter Harvest". Box Office Mojo. April 22, 2017.
- Bitter Harvest at Rotten Tomatoes
- Hall, Sandra (March 2, 2017). "itter Harvest review: Beguiling pair in Ukrainian tilt at Doctor Zhivago". The Sydney Morning Herald.
- Weigel, George (February 23, 2017). "Bitter Harvest and the Bitter Present in Ukraine". National Review. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
- Debruge, Peter (February 23, 2017). "Film Review: Bitter Harvest". Variety.
- Linden, Sheri (February 23, 2017). "Tragic story of the Holodomor is reduced to cliché in historical drama Bitter Harvest". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
- Catsoulis, Jeannette (February 23, 2017). "Review: Bitter Harvest Offers a Clunky Lesson in Ukrainian History". The New York Times.
- "Bitter Harvest an amateurish film on a worthy topic". San Francisco Chronicle.
- "Review: In Bitter Harvest grim history gets undercut". Detroit News.
- "Bitter Harvest can't do justice to its historical subject". National Post.
- "Bitter Harvest is a ham-fisted, but well-intentioned romance". The Globe and Mail.
- O'Sullivan, Michael (February 23, 2017). "Bitter Harvest: Ukrainian famine is rendered as heavy-handed melodrama". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
- Paschyn, Larissa (February 24, 2017). "UACC statement in response to Michael O’Sullivan's review of Bitter Harvest". Ukrainian-American Coordinating Council. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
- Bryttan, Adrian (March 7, 2017). "Bitter Harvest: A universal romance shines a light on truth about the Holodomor". The Ukrainian Weekly. Retrieved March 7, 2017.