Bitter Harvest

Bitter Harvest

DVD - 2017
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An artist battles famine, imprisonment, and torture to save his childhood love and free his country.
Audience: OFA rating: 14A.
Publisher: Santa Monica : Lionsgate, 2017.
Branch Call Number: DVD FIC Bitte
Characteristics: 1 videodisc (104 min.) : digital, sound, colour ; 12 cm
Language Note: In English dubbed in Ukrainian with Spanish subtitles.
Closed captioned for the hearing impaired.


From the critics

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Nov 25, 2018

It would be a 4+star film if only there are not dozens of excellent war torn horror films already from Hollywood and beyond. However, as BritCrimeDramaFan commented, this is focused on the lesser publicized Stalin atrocity in Ukraine in the 1930s. The love story affords telling the history lesson that include both genders and multi-generations. See "Quotes."

Oct 20, 2018

An action-drama that takes place during the Holodomir, the Ukrainian genocide by means of the Soviet's man-made famine, is done with the aire of a telenovela, caricatures and all, allowing the drama to overshadow the tragic historical event. Much like historical telenovelas tend to do, this is a missed opportunity to pay history its dues. In this case it fails to bring the Holodomir to the forefront, as the film relegates it to the backdrop where the audience can take note of the larger picture historical horror as part of the scenery and circumstance for the drama. I give the film some credit for shedding some light on a subject that deseves more public attention than it has received.

Jul 05, 2018

This is an awesome film, very true to the historical record. There are people in our county who lived through this during their childhood. I worked with them for several years.

Feb 02, 2018

A very important story that is unfortunately told in a very shoddy movie. It is kind of shame this event could not have been given a better treatment. The production level is down to a made for cable movie and the story and writing is sort of a mess. Doctor Zhivago it is not. If a person wants a better understanding of the period the excellent books Red Famine or Bloodlands:Europe between Hitler and Stalin are a great place to start.

Dec 18, 2017

Soviets speaking English, nuff for me. The movie was good enough to watch, interesting enough to keep me watching it to the end. It's a made up story, based on true events, and it's lack of emotional impact that mde me feel that it's inadequate. Could have been more.

Nov 24, 2017

The idea that the Nazis were right wing is obviously wrong. It was after all the National Socialist German Workers Party. Stalin and Hitler played from the same playbook. Authoritarian states, secret police, political murder, concentration camps, aggressive foreign policy, militarism, mass propaganda and government control of the economy. Who owned their tank factories is interesting but irrelevant. It is convenient for the self acknowledged "left" to distance themselves from the Nazis. A university will still gladly hire "socialist" professors but have to draw the line at Nazis. The charade that Hitler and Stalin represented two different sides of the political spectrum has to be maintained for the sake of the Marxists and fellow travelers including the Antifa types.

Sep 09, 2017

If you can endure the relentless downbeat nature and tragedy of the first half of this movie, you are rewarded with one man's struggle against the genocide of Ukrainian peasants by Stalin in the 1930's after the death of Lenin. There were heroes who endured, but according to the film, 2-10 million who did not. Good history lesson acted by players you've never heard of, except Terence Stamp who is excellent as always.

Sep 09, 2017

In the first half of the 20th century two terrible totalitarian systems came on and (mostly) were driven off the world stage, leaving scores of millions of dead in their wakes. Stories of Right totalitarianism and some of its victims have been told cinematically hundreds of times.

On the other hand, there is a shocking and dangerous (and predictable?) paucity of films telling the stories of Left totalitarianism and its victims. "Bitter Harvest" will help remedy this deficit in a small way.

This is not a perfect film. Among other things, there are plot problems in the lead up to Yuri's trip to Kiev. And the mishmash of accents by the mostly Anglophone actors was initially distracting. However, "Bitter Harvest" is a good, mostly well-acted historical drama that engagingly sheds much-needed light on some of the crimes of Left totalitarianism, a subject too long and perilously neglected by the film industry.


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Nov 25, 2018

Before the Stalin atrocities, at film's opening:

Across the ages it has been called many things: The borderland, the wild fields, the bread basket of Europe. But since I was a boy, Ukraine was simply 'home'. Even as we dreamed of freedom from the Russian tsar, life went on as it always had. Moving to the rhythm of the seasons, waxing and waning in the eternal cycle of seed, plough and reaping. A life of hard work and small pleasures.
Comrade Stalin, Comrade Lenin tried to collectivise. He targeted the intelligentsia, the church, the peasants. The Ukrainians rebelled. They flourished!
- Lenin was too lenient. Syphilis had softened his brain. Ukraine must be taught to bow to our will. Without its huge mineral wealth and vast harvests of grain, Russia cannot exist.

Nov 25, 2018

You are Boyko? I see, Boyko, you own a horse... a cow... land. Do you hire help to manage the land? Then you are kulak. A privileged class, an enemy of the state.
Bastards! Blood-sucking bastards.
-I am a poor peasant.
That's for the state to decide. If you cooperate, you'll be allowed to live in the cooperative.
-You mean on my own land?
If you don't, you'll either be jailed... or shot.
-When will the state decide?
It already has.
My grandson will have his revenge.
-The painter?
The warrior!

Nov 25, 2018

On-screen text at the end:

The 1932/33 the Soviet-instigated starving of Ukraine is now known under the name of Holodomor (death by starvation). The whole horror of that intended policy was only revealed after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. In 2003 Russia signed a declaration which confirmed that the Holodomor cost was between 7 and 10 million of innocent human lives. Now the Holodomor is recognized as one of the biggest crimes against humanity. 16 nations are considered as those who committed genocide. This film is dedicated to the victims of all genocides.

Dec 14, 2017

Are you Boyko?

Sep 04, 2017

"Based on one of the most overlooked tragedies of the 20th century, Bitter Harvest  is a powerful story of love, honor, rebellion and survival as seen through the eyes of two young lovers caught in the ravages of Joseph Stalin’s genocidal policies against Ukraine in the 1930s. As Stalin advances the ambitions of communists in the Kremlin, a young artist named Yuri ( Max Irons ) battles to survive famine, imprisonment and torture to save his childhood sweetheart Natalka ( Samantha Barks ) from the 'Holodomor,' the death‑by‑starvation program that ultimately killed millions of Ukrainians. Against this tragic backdrop, Yuri escapes from a Soviet prison and joins the anti‑Bolshevik resistance movement as he battles to reunite with Natalka and continue the fight for a free Ukraine.

"Filmed on location in Ukraine, this epic love story brings to light one of the most devastating chapters of modern Europe."


Sep 04, 2017

" 'Bitter Harvest' does indeed cast a searing light on the Holodomor, Stalin’s motives and Moscow’s savage repression of Ukraine’s resistance to the Soviet regime. But it is neither a history book nor an impersonal polemic. Above all, it is the gripping tale of Yuri and Natalka – a young couple in love, who fight to overcome every obstacle life throws at them.

"Director George Mendeluk is first and foremost a master storyteller, breathing vivid life into the nuanced characters in his epic-romance. By spinning a tale anyone can identify with, Mr. Mendeluk also illuminates our common humanity. 'Bitter Harvest' stands out as a romance in the same sense as Verdi’s 'La Traviata' – that composer’s most intimate opera, where he plumbed his heroine’s heart with a wealth of poetic expression and economy of means."

Source: Adrian Bryttan, “ 'Bitter Harvest': A universal romance shines a light on truth about the Holodomor," Ukrainian Weekly. February 17, 2017.

Sep 04, 2017

"This international co-production is out to impress as Ukraine's Doctor Zhivago. It's set during The Great Famine of 1932-33, when Stalin's Soviets starved millions of Ukrainian farmers and their families with its genocidal policy of forced collectivisation.

"But sitting at the centre of the tragedy is a love story between childhood sweethearts Yuri and Natalka, played by Britain's Max Irons (son of Jeremy) and Samantha Barks, who scored her screen breakthrough with her performance as Epomine, the young revolutionary in the Hugh Jackman-Russell Crowe film version of Les Miserables.

"They're a beguiling pair but they're destined to spend half the movie apart. After a pastoral idyll shot in their village at harvest time with sunny backlighting and connotations of mellow fruitfulness, the Russians ride in and nothing is ever the same again."

Source: Sandra Hall, "Bitter Harvest review: Beguiling pair in Ukrainian tilt at Doctor Zhivago, " Sydney Morning Herald, February 26 2017.

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