Film classic accompanied by spellbinding etno-chaos

Zemlya

Alexander Dovzhenko, DakhaBrakha

Ukrainian ‘etno-chaos’ quartet DakhaBrakha play a spellbinding soundtrack to Alexander Dovzhenko’s legendary 1930 silent film Zemlya (Earth). In this classic black and white movie, Dovzhenko, one of the early Soviet Union’s major filmmakers, delivers an ode to traditional Soviet country life and a critical look at the catastrophic Soviet collectivisation of farms at the time. DakhaBrakha are one of the hottest bands to hit today’s popular music scene. They play an intense, high voltage brand of folk: dark songs which almost imperceptibly build up to a breathtaking climax. Singer Marko Halanevych is confident that their music will make the film even more Ukrainian.

Festivalfocus: Edges of Europe

During the first six months of this year the Netherlands holds the Presidency of the European Union. But what is left of the dream of European unity? At the Holland Festival international artists present a series of performances focusing on current European issues and exploring this changing continent. 

The festival’s opening performance by Estonian directors Ene-Liis Semper and Tiit Ojasoo Die Stunde da wir nichts voneinander wußten shows the diversity and tensions of modern Europe. And in their film Ash and Money they focus on the phenomenon of political populism. Directors Milo Rau (The Dark Ages), Joël Pommerat (Ça ira (1) Fin de Louis), Wael Shawky (Cabaret Crusades: The Secrets of Karbala) and Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha delve into Europe’s past, exploring the effect of some of its history’s darkest chapters. From the heart of Europe, the collective God’s Entertainment stages a test about chauvinism, which is causing the European dream of unity to falter. The Dutch theatre company Wunderbaum responds to European issues in its project The New Forest. A large Syrian orchestra for Arabic music will reunite for a special concert in Africa Express Presents… The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians with Damon Albarn and Guests. Artists may not be able to change the world, but they can change the way we look at it.

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Background information

Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha have written a new soundtrack for the silent film Zemlya (Earth, 1930) by the legendary Soviet director Alexander Dovzhenko (1894-1956). DakhaBrakha's self-professed 'ethno-chaotic' eclectic folk music adds a magic dimension to Dovzhenko's starkly realist, yet passionate ode to the arduous existence in rural Ukraine.

A two-time winner of the Stalin Prize, Dovzhenko was regarded as one of the great Soviet directors. Yet Zemlya casts a critical eye on the violent way in which the Soviets forced agricultural collectivisation on the farmers, and the human suffering it caused. The film is the third and final instalment in Dovzhenko's Ukrainian trilogy, which was received with great acclaim in the West as well as the Soviet-Union. Zemlya is considered one of the best films from the Soviet era. Nevertheless, Soviet critics at the time could not appreciate its poetic imagery and ambiguous themes, which in their view were counterrevolutionary.

In contrast to the first two parts of his trilogy - Zvenyhora and Arsenal - Zemlya focuses on the contemporary radical reforms and dispossessions, which were carried out in rural Ukraine in the name of the communist revolution. The film starts out with the death of grandfather Semyon, an old farmer who passes away peacefully surrounded by family and friends after enjoying a juicy pear. With him, the old ways of farming die as well. The younger generation of Semyon's grandson Vasyl have to break with the past and take a radically new approach, in line with Soviet ideology, which champions mechanisation, collectivisation and atheism – with tragic consequences.


Supported by DakhBrakha's dark, atmospheric music, Dovzhenko's beautifully serene shots slowly build to a breathtaking climax. Their new soundtrack was recorded in 2012, commissioned by the National Oleksandr Dovzhenko Centre as part of a complete, new restoration of the film, based on the version from 1930. According to DakhaBrakha's singer Marko Halanevych, their music makes Zemlya 'even more authentically Ukrainian'. DakhaBrakha is old Ukrainian for 'give and take'. The quartet was established in 2004 by 'arts tsar' Vladislav Troitsky, producer, director, actor and founding father of the DAKH Kiev Centre of Contemporary Arts. Ever since, the group have been touring the world. DakhaBrakha's sound is rooted in Ukrainian folk music, which band members Marko Halanevych, Iryna Kovalenko, Olena Tsibulska and Nina Garenetska collect during field trips to rural villages. They mix this traditional Ukrainian folk music with rhythms and sounds from other countries, cultures and continents, using a range of exotic instruments, such as darbuka, didgeridoo, accordion, djembe, bass drum, bugay, zgaleyka, various percussion instruments and cello. Their ritualistic, trance-like scores combine with intense, passionate vocals building up to tumultuous levels. DakhaBrakha enjoy cult status in their home country, and they're the house band of Kiev's DAKH Theatre, but they've built a name for themselves outside of Ukraine as well, playing at various international theatre, art and pop festivals. Their live performance of the soundtrack to Zemlya will mark their debut at the Holland Festival.

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Biographies

Alexander Petrovich Dovzhenko (1894 – 1956) was a celebrated script writer, film producer and director from the Soviet-Union. He is often cited as one of the most important early Soviet filmmakers, alongside Sergei Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin, as well as being a pioneer of Soviet montage theory. He grew up as the seventh of fourteen children in a farmer's family, but due to the horrific rate of child loss only he and his sister Polina survived. 

At 19, Dovzhenko became a school teacher. During the Soviet-Ukrainian War he fought in the army of the Ukrainian People's Republic against the Red Army. In 1919, he was taken prisoner and sent to a concentration camp. After his release, he served as an assistant to the Ambassador in Warsaw and Berlin. In 1923 he returned to the Soviet-Union, where he started working as an illustrator and political cartoonist. In 1926, he moved to Odessa to concentrate on film making. His ambitious drive led to the production of his second-ever screenplay, Vasya the Reformer. He gained greater success with Zvenyhora (1928), the first part of his Ukraine trilogy, which established him as a major filmmaker. He completed his trilogy with Arsenal and Zemlya. Dovzhenko was a two-time winner of the Stalin Prize, which he received for Shchors (1941) and Michurin (1949). During World War Two, Dovzhenko travelled as an embedded journalist with the Red Army. After the war, he worked at Mosfilm Studios in Moscow as a writer and producer. In his twenty-year career he only directed seven films. After his death in 1956, the Dovzhenko Film Studios in Kiev were named after him in his honour.

The Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha was formed in 2004 by the avant-garde stage director Vladislav Troitsky, director of the DAKH Kiev Centre of Contemporary Arts. The band is made up of Marko Halanevych, Iryna Kovalenko, Olena Tsibulska and Nina Garenetska and managed by Iryna Gorban. DakhaBrakha is an old-Urkainian word for 'give and take'. Dubbing their music 'ethno-chaos', the band play an eccentric brand of very soulful, theatrical world music, mixing Ukrainian folk with rhythmic elements from around the world. Combining the characteristic sounds of traditional Indian, Arabic, African, Russian and Australian instruments with their exceptionally powerful vocals, the quartet produce a transnational sound, on the cusp of folk and contemporary theatre and rooted in Ukrainian culture. DakhaBrakha enjoy cult status in their home country, and they're the house band of Kiev's DAKH Theatre, but they've built a name for themselves on the international stage as well, with more than 500 performances at a variety of venues and festivals in Europe, Australia, the United States, Canada and South-America. To date DakhaBrakha have produced four studio albums and written and performed music for ten films. In 2010, they received the Sergey Kuryokhin Modern Art Award. In 2015, DakhaBrakha played at Lowlands Festival in the Netherlands. This year they will make their debut at the Holland Festival.

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Credits

director Zemlya
Alexander Dovzhenko
coproductie
Holland Festival, EYE
music
DakhaBrakha:
Marko Halanevych, vocals, darbuka, didgeridoo, accordion
Iryna Kovalenko, vocals, djembe, bass drum, accordion, percussion, bugay, zhaleyka
Olena Tsibulska, vocals, bass floor tom, percussion
Nina Garenetska, vocals, cello, bass drum

This performance was made possible with support by