Atlanta to Little Rock, Amarillo to Houston - Now Through Mid-July
By Steve Richards
I am taking the Back to Bucha show on the road to scout out venues for our fall screening tour on a 2,500+ mile ride and I can’t wait. I have lots of places on the TheoEco email list to stop and see.
I don’t care how hot it is in Texas!
I begin in Atlanta tomorrow June 28th and plan to finish July 18th in Houston with a bunch of stops along the way.
I’m looking forward to spreading the Spirit of Ukraine throughout the area of the country that can appreciate it like no other: The Bible Belt.
Please reach out to me if I’m coming your way. I’ll make every effort to come by and make your acquaintance.
The Ukrainian Christians in Back to Bucha Are Just Like Those in the USA.
By Steve Richards
As we were editing Back to Bucha (shot in Ukraine at the beginning of 2023) it became clear that the original 76-minute version was more of a Christian film than I thought. The new 56-minute cut is better suited to secular audiences with shorter interviews of clergy and others.
My natural perspective is to look at things from a theological point of view, especially since my time at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale almost ten years ago. I have always looked at the war in Ukraine as a battle joined in a quasi-metaphysical, theological realm. Especially when Putin and religious leaders in Russia talk about the patently absurd purpose of the war was to “de-satanize” Ukraine. Satanism, De-Satanization, and Exorcism in Contemporary Russian Rhetoric: Historical Reflections - Cornell University Press.
Absurd because all I meet in Ukraine are Christians with roots dating back to the 10th century. Even St. Andrew was reportedly a bringer of the Gospels in the first century and is the patron saint of Ukraine (and Russia). Of course, they say the same thing about the west and the USA being run by satanists, so I guess we’re all in cahoots with the devil; as many in the USA might agree, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say audiences of Back to Bucha will see folks just like them along the Christian spectrum we see in America: from agnostics raised by Christian moms and grandmothers to those who attend church once or twice a year, to regular church goers. We also get the perspectives of clergy from Presbyterians to Catholics, to Orthodox, to Charismatic. Most of whom are speaking English. I asked a simple question of all whom I interviewed: “Where is the Spirit in all this?”
So, with all these theological threads in the film I was glad that the Christian aspect of the Ukrainian Spirit made it through as I began screening the film for religious leaders and audiences in my orbit. Here’s one review we received from a Florida based Episcopal/Anglican priest:
As a sequel to Richards’ first documentary journey to Bucha—a town representative of Ukrainian suffering as well as resistance under Russian siege—Back to Bucha is a profound meditation on the experience of loss and return, and the significance of place for human meaning and identity. At once impressionist and thematic, Richards weaves together interviews and personal testimonies to form a tapestry not just of human resilience, but perhaps even more of the greater Spirit that inspires the love of country and the love that binds together fellow citizens. It is in this Spirit that stories of the past, as well as hopes for the future, are carried with such graciousness. Absent is the sense of vengefulness, less still a countering sense of ethnic privilege or preeminence. Back to Bucha reveals a humble people, wanting to preserve and, by current necessity, restore a place in which to live, love and worship, according to the gifts of a deeply rich cultural and religious heritage. It is a study in how genuine faith turns the love of nation into simply and gracefully the love of home.”
Not sure about “impressionistic and thematic” but it was clear how much Fr. Dave enjoyed and learned from the film about those he saw in it.
My goal? To give American Christians a chance to see just how much we have in common with our new friends, allies, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. People just like us. It’s a witnessing of sorts by me and those in the film of how the Spirit plays such a crucial role in the conflict and in Ukrainian resilience. Something rarely talked about in the media.
In the end, American audiences don’t see victims in Back to Bucha. Just those trying to raise their children in their own homes in their own country – and thanking God to be alive. They see people like us fighting for their freedom – and thanking God, America, and all who are in this fight with them.
Spreading the Spirit of Ukraine Across the USA.
By Steve Richards
As the long-awaited counteroffensive by Ukrainian forces begin, we are supporting Ukraine by taking our hopeful film about Ukraine’s Spirit across America. We now have two versions of the film. The new 57-minute cut and the original 76-minute version which takes a deeper dive along Spiritual lines. Both provide great fundraising opportunities for Ukraine.
Here’s what one supporter had to say after our Huntsville screening:
“Our family just viewed the Alabama premiere of Back to Bucha at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. We loved the documentary and we are thankful that Steve Richards found the time to visit our campus and share his artful creation with us. The documentary was powerful and educational, from a perspective that only a boots on the ground approach can provide. I recommend this documentary to Ukrainians, American-Ukrainians, and Americans who wish to walk in the streets of Bucha, Kyiv, and Lviv and get an insightful discussion with the Ukrainians impacted by this war. I can recommend this film to all ages of audience, the context was not graphic, but rather an insight into personal, religious, family challenges.” - Tony Taylor
Building upon our successful screenings and response to the film I am personally planning a 30+ screenings tour between Labor Day and Thanksgiving in regions across the country.
Here are the tentative dates:
Want to be part of it? Just go to the Screenings page by clicking here. Or just contact me directly at 305-310-2634 or email me at Stever@TheoEco.org to get the conversation started.
What about the summer? As I’m based in Miami, I’ll be reaching out to folks on our list throughout South Florida from Tampa to Miami. So, wherever you are in the USA please consider a screening to support Ukraine and the Spirit both here and there. Of course, virtual screenings for groups large and small are always available.
Looking forward to seeing you on the road and online!
By Steve Richards
We had a successful Alabama premiere of the new 1-hour version of Back to Bucha this past Sunday, June 4th at the venerable Wilson Hall Theater at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH). The Q&A afterwards included Fr. Roman Nebozhuk online from Kyiv who reported that contrary to what we might surmise from the news the traffic jams are just as bad now as before the full-scale invasion.
Thanks so much to UAH. They provided the theater, the staff, and the energy to make this effort a success. As a donation driven project this help is vital to raising funds for all the non-profits involved: Global Ties Alabama, Project Cherkasy, and Bear Witness. To see the pictures and video from the event visit the facebook page at Back to Bucha – Alabama Premiere & Meeting with the Film Director, June 4 at 1 pm, UAH Wilson Hall | Facebook
Thanks especially to Yaryna Zhurba from Global Ties Alabama who brought it all together. Here’s what she had to say after the screening:
“Thank you for bringing "Back to Bucha" to Huntsville! I enjoyed watching it a lot. The film gives a big desire to go to Ukraine to be part of what's going on there. Luckily I'm going in two days. Otherwise I'd feel very homesick. It provides a true feeling of Ukraine.”
“A film for all generations” her husband told me, and it was a joy to have their children in the audience. I felt like I was at the UCC Cathedral in Kyiv when watching the footage from there not so many Sundays ago. I could also imagine them at the Kindergarten in Kyiv with the other bright and beautiful children who actually enjoy going down to the basement bomb shelter when the sirens wail.
The event also allowed us to honor International Children’s Day. As the film is so much about the moms and children of Ukraine having Ukrainian American children with their mom (and dad) in the audience gave it an extra poignancy for me, especially as Fr. Roman noted the death of a child in Kyiv last week in a missile attack. Ukraine: Russian missile attacks kill a child on International Children’s Day (amnesty.org)
A special shout out to Amit Nepali our intrepid editor who somehow found 20 minutes of cuts from the original film without eliminating any of the interviews. And, of course, Valariia Vovk’s amazing composition is essential to the film and the feelings it evokes.
To commemorate the occasion we are making the film available for free through Sunday June 11th for all to watch.
To view it on Vimeo click here.