What does it take for Helena, a filmmaker to pick up a weapon in the most ruthless war the world has experienced since World War II and still try not to lose hope in humanity and the future?
On April 8th 2022, I saw Kramatorsk train station shortly after a Russian rocket obliterated the lives of 51 civilians and saw the bloody remains of women, children and elderly scattered like rags on the platform. I was angry and enlisted in the National Guard of Ukraine. I learned how to treat the wounded and how to survive on the battlefield. I was the only woman in my unit but I gained their respect and found friends. My commander allowed me to film but it was made clear that my job as a soldier came first.
Focusing on life on the frontline, I am both a witness and protagonist in a documentary that follows the transformation of average civilians into combat veterans and what they lose on the way. Life at war has given me an overwhelming clarity of who people really are and amongst all the pain, destruction and moral ambiguity, there are genuine moments of joy, love and human decency. Now, as a recently promoted lieutenant I am torn between the wish to be with my mother who worries me every day, and the responsibility to the young men I now command. I am also a woman in a world of men. For now, I am showing no weakness to my men because they rely on my experience to stay alive. Yet, I have not let go of my hope in humanity and deep down inside, I'm still a girl who wants to dance and be a mom.
I’ve always loved acquiring new skills and have tried different career paths. 7 years ago, it became clear to me that what I wanted to do the most was to dedicate my life to learning all the necessary skills needed to become a good filmmaker and make honest films.
I never thought that I would have to learn skills that, for almost two years now, have become essential in keeping myself and others alive: use a weapon and apply bandages and tourniquets to my wounded friends. A skill that I will never learn is to get used to seeing some of them dying in front of me or seeing them maimed for life.
Being on the front line is not the first time my life was on a knife’s edge. I battled cancer for many years before I decided that I wanted to dedicate my life to making documentary films. This is one of the reasons I am interested in stories about vulnerable people and communities.
I am in hell but I still have so much love to give and I know how to make a movie so as long as I am alive and I am able to, I will keep filming.
HBO has been following this project and its progress for a substantial period of time and finds the story to be of great interest. We believe the story bravely touches some universal themes regarding the nature of a human soul, we are certain the creative talent and intention behind the film will create a meaningful film. HBO also knows and trusts both the Director and the Production Company and is interested in a potential collaboration on the production of the film. We believe that this film has the potential to speak to audiences across more than just European territory.
— Hanka Kastelicová
VP, Executive Producer of Documentaries HBO Max
Director Helena Maksyom
Graduate with honors from The National Aviation University in Kyiv. Worked as a journalist, translator, writer, project manager, cinematographer and film-director. Her feature documentary debut as a director, EVERYTHING WILL NOT BE FINE 2020, premiered in competition at IDFA and won several international awards, including Best Director and Best Ukrainian film at the Odessa film festival.
Graduate of EsoDoc 2021. Winner of the HBO Max Award and Current Time TV Award at East Doc Platform Pitch 2023
Since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, she has been volunteering near the front lines in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Chernihiv regions and since April 2022 has been an active-duty member of the Ukrainian National Guard serving as a combat medic in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions. Helena Maksyom is a recipient of the medal for military service to Ukraine and has been recently promoted to second lieutenant.
Adrian Pirvu is a graduate of The National University of Film and Drama in Bucharest, BA in directing for film and TV, master’s degree in film production. Has directed and produced several short films and documentaries. After teaching English in China for a year, worked as a video producer for an NGO concerned with disability rights advocacy. Debut in feature documentary film as co-director and co-producer with EVERYTHING WILL NOT BE FINE. Participated in several international documentary pitches and workshops: Docs in Thessaloniki, BDC Discoveries, Last Stop Trieste, CineDoc Tbilisi, East Doc Platform.
Dea Gjinovci is a Swiss-Albanian director and producer. Films she has directed and/or produced have premiered in prestigious international film festivals including Tribeca Film Festival, Visions du Réel, IDFA, CPH:DOX, Hot Docs, Thessaloniki, True/False, Sheffield, DocNYC, Winterthur KurzFilmTage and many others... Her films also screened at the Centre Pompidou and la Gaîté lyrique in Paris as well as the Museo M9 in Venice. She was awarded the RTS pitch award 2018 at Visions FIFDH impact days award in 2019 and 2022. She is a Sundance alumna, a 2021 EsoDoc participant and a 2019 Film Independent Fellow. Her cinematographic style blends poetic narration, magical realism and cinéma vérité. She won several awards including "Best National Film" at 2017 Dokufest, "Best new Talent" mentions at both ZagrebDox 2021 and Biografilm 2020. She is a member of the Swiss Film Academy since her "Best Documentary" nomination for Wake Up on Mars in 2022. She is also a member of the European Film Academy. Dea has held masterclasses and lectures at NYU-AbuDhabi, the University of Geneva, Centro Frantz Fanon in Turin, Neo School in Prishtina and Dokufest Film school in Prizren. She has a BA(Hons) in Economics and Politics from SOAS, University of London and a MA in Ethnographic and documentary film from UCL, University of London. She speaks four languages: French, English, Italian and Albanian.
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