Hot Docs 2019: Focus on Julia Ivanova: Our Review of ‘Family Portrait in Black and White’

Hot Docs 2019: Focus on Julia Ivanova: Our Review of ‘Family Portrait in Black and White’

Children deserves loving families. When Ukrainian Alexander “Sashka” Nenya talks about his family, sometimes his biological parents come into the conversation. He says that it would be cool to meet them. He’s one of the subjects in Julia Ivanova’s Family Portrait in Black and White. When that was filming, he was one of 17 children under care of their adopted mother Olga. This documentary had a reputation during its release. That prepares their audiences for when Olga turns into someone less loving.

One thing – what separates Sashka and most of her 17 foster children is that they are are black or brown. Olga adopted them because children of color are not popular at orphanages. Her intentions are good, but these children are going to have dreams of their own, dreams which she suppresses. She doesn’t want a son to play soccer or a daughter to pursue playing the violin.

Family evokes Chekhovian storytelling in portraying that titular dysfunctional unit. Ivanova shows the sea or nature, a calming way to reintroduce us to each child. They have different ways of having fun as well as having different relationships with Olga. It also has large enough of a scope and shows government programs benefiting these children. One program lets them spend time in Italy with other families. Ones who have better ways of loving them than Olga does.

Lastly, it intelligently deals with the racism that these children deal with. The movie, after all, starts out with white nationalists who make Olga a saint in comparison. These children smile with or without Olga, that visual itself feeling like a relief despite their situations. But it also asks its audience how far a smile or a song can go. How do parents preparing children of color in a country that does not want them?

  • Release Date: 5/2/2019
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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