Sundance Film Festival

Sundance Watch List: FAMILY PORTAIT IN BLACK AND WHITE

If you think your home is chaotic and your family connections complex and emotionally fraught, consider the household of Olga Nenya, the subject of Julia Ivanova’s FAMILY PORTRAIT IN BLACK AND WHITE, which will be featured in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival’s World Cinema Documentary Competition.

In a small Ukrainian Village, Nenya is single-handedly raising 23 foster children, 16 of them biracial, abandoned as babies by the Ukrainian mothers who conceived them with visiting African students because they were overwhelmed by the prospect of raising children in a culture that is rife with racism.

In a “Meet the 2011 Sundance Filmmakers” interview with indieWIRE, director Ivanova explained how she came to focus her camera on Nenya’s highly active household:

I grew up in the Soviet Union where “All people were equal, but some people were more equal than others,” if I may paraphrase George Orwell. It didn’t take much observation, even for a child, to sense that the worst thing in that society was to be born mixed-race. I saw just a few black kids back then, but I remember how unfair the societal rejection felt to me. Thirty something years later I was filming in Moscow and saw an article and a photo in a local newspaper about a foster mother in Ukraine and her 16 mixed-race children. That’s how I learned about Olga Nenya and her family. I called her, and she agreed to be in the film. Both of us didn’t know that I would be coming back for three years, of course. The idea of the film hasn’t changed but the complexity of the film definitely has. Now it is a very serious film, not only about racism and the sense of belonging, but also, and most of all, about the orphanhood and the parent-teenager conflict.

(The entire interview with Ivanova can be found here.)

Be sure to satisfy all your festival needs with the latest buzz, top stories, and celebrity interviews from Sundance Channel’s coverage of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.