Ukrainian Sheriffs, a documentary from real-life partners, Director/Writer Roman Bondarchuk and Producer/Writer Dar’ya Averchenko, tells the story of two men who received mayoral appointments to act as “sheriffs” in Southern Ukraine. The two men are a retired police officer with the look and demeanor of American television and film enforcer, Chuck Norris, and a Tony Soprano look-alike with a strong powerful presence who handles the heavier work including mechanical, electrical, and even plumbing!
Ukrainian Sheriffs is set in a remote village, Stara Zburjivka, near the Crimea in Southern Ukraine. It was shot over a period of three years culminating in a hundred and fifty hours of footage. The real story, however, begins to unfold in 2016. Russia has invaded the Crimea. Russian pro-separatists are taking up arms. Infiltrators orchestrate a political coup in the name of reform and progress at a town hall meeting. The locals, however, won’t hear their bombastic appeals and walk out after the level-headed mayor affirms their commitment to each other and their belief in
Reviewed by Nelson Roosendahl. Viewed at AFI Film Fest 2016.
Mifune: The Last Samurai is a documentary exploration of the career and life of Toshiro Mifune, the legendary star of mid-century Japanese cinema. The film tells the story of Mifune’s life in and out of film. It includes a wealth of archival footage, much of it representing an overview of the great Japanese samurai films that changed world cinema and influenced the repertoire of Italy’s Sergio Leone and, no doubt, Hollywood Westerns.
Aside from its focus on Mifune himself, the film gives great insight into his long working relationship with Akira Kurosawa, for whom he starred in 16 films over two decades, from Drunken Angel (1948), through Rashomon (1950) and Seven Samurai (1954), and culminating with Red Beard (1965). There is a recognition by those interviewed that Kurosawa would have been diminished without Mifune, and vice-versa, a revelation to this reviewer, as Mifune’s identity tends to be less well-known and Kurosawa is ubiquitous. Again, this seems to connect to the work of Sergio Leone, who had as his indispensable muse Terence Hill or Clint Eastwood over a period of works.