Observed with great warmth and humor, we meet 82-year-old Ivan, who after the death of his wife, reflects nostalgically on a long life of solitude, hard work and quiet achievement. Vasyl, 39 now a shepherd in the prime of his life is responsible for the subsistence of his neighbours and survival of his small community. He balances traditional practices with the realisation that the world as he knows it is irrevocably changing. Tucked firmly under his wing is Ivanko, 9, who he is training in the traditional methods of sheep herding. As the economic and political landscape of Ukraine morphs; increasingly, its youth shifts to urban centres in search of more modern lifestyles. Ivanko could well be one of the very last of the Carpathian shepherds. The film is an elegant testament to a sadly disappearing way of life that will linger long after the film has ended.
These three charming characters, each bound by tradition, uniquely reflect upon the meaning of their existences as the contemporary world threatens to impact their livelihood. Depicting at once the seasonal and lifelong cycles of traditional rural life, The Living Fire is a fine piece of folk-art, that while culturally specific also questions the universal problem of what stands to be lost in the face of modernisation, as our societies become ever more removed from their natural environments.
“A gentle documentary that provides an intimate and respectful look at an increasingly fragile and detached rural community.” – Jeremy Elphick, 4:3
The Living Fire
The melting of the snow caps that line the rocky Carpathian Mountain range indicate that Spring is fast approaching. Hutsul shepherds have inhabited this spectacular border region that sits between Ukraine, Poland and Romania for hundreds of years. Annually, these men must leave their families for up to four months, travelling 150km with their sheep, deep into the mountain reserves that lay largely untouched by civilisation.
Based on over a decade of research and gorgeously shot over the course of four years, The Living Fire presents us with a portrait of three generations of such men, in a tour-de-force of expressionistic filmmaking and sound design, replete with distinctive images of rare environmental and human beauty.