Ukraine has selected the documentary UKRAINIAN SHERIFFS, directed by Roman Bondarchuck, as the country’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 2017 Academy Awards.
Ukrainian Sheriffs had its World Premiere at the 2015 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), where it was awarded the Special Jury Award in Feature Length Competition.
In UKRAINIAN SHERIFFS we follow Viktor and Volodya, two men who have been appointed local sheriffs by the mayor in the town of Stara Zburyevka to solve crimes such as the theft of two ducks. The other main problems are neighbor disputes, drunkenness, physical abuse and car breakdowns, and many of them have their roots in the prevalent unemployment, poverty and illiteracy. When the mayor gives a speech, his audience consists mainly of children and old women. The filmmakers follow the adventures of Viktor and Volodya with a keen eye for the comical side of everyday situations. Driving in their yellow Lada flying its own little Ukrainian flag, they travel from incident to incident – calming an angry neighbor, investigating the discovery of a body, struggling to unfold a stroller and attempting to re-integrate Vova, the freeloader who eats other people’s dogs but actually longs for a normal existence – just like everyone else here. The seasons pass until political developments reach the village by way of the TV screen, sowing separatist discord. The only music comes from the radio or when someone breaks into a folk song about a goat. Around the time of the celebrations for the country’s 70th Independence Day, the men of the village are drafted into the army.
This represents a return to the foreign-language Oscar race for Ukraine, after the country missed last year’s race after a scandal over the country’s Oscar selection process back in 2014.
The controversy began when the selection process in place at that time, provoked accusations of irregularities over the choice of The Guide as Ukraine’s foreign-language Oscar candidate that year.
Earlier this year, the country’s producers’ association, the national filmmakers’ union and the state cinema agency signed a memorandum about their cooperation within the country’s nomination committee; which was eventually approved by The U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last month, clearing the way for a new selection process.