Bitter Harvest (2017 film)

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Bitter Harvest Holodomor feature film
Bitter Harvest (2016 film).png
Theatrical release poster
Directed by George Mendeluk
Produced by Ian Ihnatowycz
Richard Bachynsky Hoover
Stuart Baird
George Mendeluk
Chad Barager
Written by Richard Bachynsky Hoover
George Mendeluk
Story by Richard Bachynsky Hoover
Starring Max Irons
Samantha Barks
Barry Pepper
Tamer Hassan
Lucy Brown
Terence Stamp
Jack Hollington
Richard Brake
Ostap Stupka
Oleksandr Pecherytsia
Music by Benjamin Wallfisch
Cinematography Douglas Milsome
Edited by Stuart Baird
Lenka Svab
Distributed by Roadside Attractions
B&H Film Distribution Company, D Films Canada
Release date
  • February 24, 2017 (2017-02-24) (United States)
Running time
103 minutes
Country Canada
Language English
Budget $21,000,000 (US) [1]
Box office $5.570,241 (US)

Bitter Harvest is a 2017 romantic-action drama film set in Soviet Ukraine in the early 1930s during the Holodomor famine that killed millions of Ukrainians under Stalin's forced collectivization of all farms and businesses owned by Ukrainians.

The film was directed by George Mendeluk and written by Richard Bachynsky Hoover, based on Bachynsky Hoover's original story and screenplay . Mendeluk collaborated on a shooting draft with the story creator Richard Bachynsky Hoover. The film stars Max Irons, Samantha Barks, Barry Pepper, Tamer Hassan and Terence Stamp. The film is produced by Ian Ihnatowycz, Stuart Baird, Mendeluk, Chad Barager. Dennis Davidson, Peter D. Graves and William J. Immerman served 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 kurkul grain farmer families to survive as Joseph Stalin's collectivisation campaign and purge of the independent grain farmers and their property and other crops is confiscated by Stalin's Red Army and henchmen in the Soviet Ukraine during the Soviet famine of 1932–33 that claimed millions of Ukrainian lives and hundreds of thousands of Kulak and anti communist resistors deported to Siberia slave camps and Gulags and executed en masse for nationalism and trumped up charges. Yuri, an artist from a family of revolutionaries, slowly becomes entangled with the anti-Bolshevik resistance at school in Kiev after an escape from prison, while his family and childhood sweetheart Natalka are crushed by Stalin's policies at home. He must race to defeat Commissar Sergei on his family farm – now a collective farm.[1]



Ukrainian Canadian screenwriter Richard Bachynsky Hoover conceived the idea for the film during a 1999 visit to Ukraine.[1] During his subsequent research into his heritage, which included a 2004 visit to Kiev during the Orange Revolution, he learned that the Holodomor had yet to be dramatized in a film.[1] In 2008, Bachynsky Hoover sought financing for such a film from the Ukrainian Government and various Ukrainian oligarchs, who were not interested.[1] In 2011, he approached fellow Ukrainian Canadian investor Ian Ihnatowycz, who committed to financing the $21 million film in its entirety.[1]

The film was originally titled The Devil's Harvest.[2][3] 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."[2][4]

Filming began in Ukraine by November 15, 2013.[5] On February 5, 2014, Variety reported that the shoot had just ended in Kiev.[2] Several local crew took part in the simultaneously held Euromaidan demonstrations and deadly Revolution of Dignity .The Screenwriter Executive Producer himself Richard Bachynsky Hoover participated and temporarily couldnt hear or see as a shock grenade that the Berkut and Police threw constantly at the protesters exploded beside his feet and was quickly assisted by a protester and medics to a makeshift medic set up on Hrushevsky Street .He also assisted carrying a 20 year old boy shot in the knee on the last Institutska massacre down Kreschatik street to a State Radio station makeshift medic set up and helped others carry a stretcher with a Lviv city murdered brave sotnik defender to rest with 8 others in Maidan square with the Ukraine flag and their bloody bullet holed helmets resting on their blanketed chests during the worst hours of the sniper murders. The films Executive producer screenwriter a Canadian Ukrainian was and still does today ,helps raising his 5 year old son Yevhen born in 2008 in the Cherkashyna region city Smila Ukraine (depicted in the film as a village then in 1920s )as tribute to his son and relatives .The screen writer executive producer was interviewed in Kyiv Maidan Revolution Live by Canadas CBC National News on ground reporter Susan Ormistan (See video interview archive, visit Google ( CBC A Front Row Seat Crisis in Ukraine) as he was carrying a Canadian flag to show support and was fighting for Ukraine's dignity in the Maidan revolution front lines while witnessing the atrocious murders by the violent government police ,Berkut , with snipers on the high ground set up by then President Yanukovich and his inner Party of Regions fully aware of the shootings. Some shots came close to the screen writer under the Institutska bridge and earlier at the burnt out Trade and Press building in Maidan . Fifty meters ahead of him he witnessed first hand the fearless Ukrainian brothers and sisters in arms moving to push back the aggresive Yanukovich heavily armed government killing forces as many were badly wounded and dying and dropping dead trying to survive the merciless killing onslaught as so many were dying fast by shots through their thin helmets and their shields in the heart while even medics assisting were also being shot at, and killed helping the 100 or more innocent brave Ukrainian heros known as the Heavenly hundred who stopped at literally nothing with very little protection except wooden homemade clubs moving up the Institutska street hill against several hundreds of heavenly armed gov. forces. Extreme violents took place all winter as so many innocent protesters were tortured and murdered and kidnapped by Police Berkut and Titushi thugs assisting them . The films Screenwriter Executive producer would take calls when needed on the cell phone in Kiev Maidan's heavily makeshift barricaded fortress to communicate with the films main Toronto producer while joining the fight as his dream script and first ever film he arranged to be produced was filming and in full swing in the Kiev region which was kept very low key and under wraps by the Producers orders and film makers regarding Stalins Holodomor genocide theme as Putins pro Russian ally Ukraines Ex.president Victor Yanukovich regime opposed the Holodomor to be publicized. Even books on the genocidal Holodomor topic were removed from many Ukraine state libraries as well to keep Putin and his regime satisfied as its been widley speculated. .[1]

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.[6] 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.


Box office

The final US box office sales were $5.557,241. Its widest release was in 127 theaters.[7] To date 2018 the film has been seen in most countries arou d the world in theaters and on Pay TV and online streaming and many Embassies including Canadas War museum and Brussels for educational and purposes to many Scholars and Political audieces.Ukraine premiere recieved many standing ovations and First Lady Maryna Poroshenko attended giving a heart felt Thank you speech to all the film makers for the importance of the film as the first ever feature film in English on the topic of Ukraines Hololomor Genocide.Many top Religious figures attended the Gala and respected the films importance as a story to be told equal in deserving as the Holocaust was on screen by many film makers ,so paramount to show the world as well of Hitlers Nazi atrocities against the Jewish people who faced their own diabolical Genocide and the plight of their survivors.

Critics and fans.

Bitter Harvest received some negative and positive reviews as mosst films do . On Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 86 % audience approval rate liking or loving the film.

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 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."[8] The Ukrainian American Coordinating Council (UACC) criticized O'Sullivan's review for seeming to deny that the Holodomor was a man-made famine;[9] The Washington Post later posted an editor's note clarifying that the Holodomor was "an act of genocide", and parts of the review were re-written.[8]

Among more positive reviews, 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."[10]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "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.
  2. ^ a b c Barraclough, Leo (February 5, 2014). "White Queen Star Max Irons Finishes Ukraine Shoot for Devil's Harvest". Variety. Retrieved February 7, 2014.
  3. ^ Trumbore, Dave (4 February 2014). "First-Look Images from The Devil's Harvest Starring Terence Stamp, Max Irons, and Barry Pepper". Collider. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
  4. ^ Francis, Diane (October 14, 2015). "New Movie Reveals Russia's Attempts to Destroy Ukraine". Atlantic Council.
  5. ^ Mitchell, Wendy (November 15, 2013). "Max Irons, Samantha Barks go for Harvest". Archived from the original on November 19, 2013. Retrieved February 8, 2014.
  6. ^ McNary, Dave (August 9, 2016). "Max Irons-Samantha Barks' Ukraine Drama 'Bitter Harvest' Bought by Roadside". Variety. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  7. ^ "Bitter Harvest". Box Office Mojo. April 22, 2017.
  8. ^ a b O'Sullivan, Michael (February 23, 2017). "Bitter Harvest: Ukrainian famine is rendered as heavy-handed melodrama". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.

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