"Vika" is a documentary film we made for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Canada's public broadcaster. Distributed by CBC Short Docs, "Vika" made its world premiere at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in May 2018. Hot Docs is North America's largest documentary film festival, conference and market.
Vika tells the story of Vika Govdash, a 17 year old Ukrainian orphan finishing her final year at a rural Eastern Ukrainian boarding school, and the bond she fights to maintain with her 10 year old sister Arina, adopted 4 years earlier during the Ukrainian revolution by a family in Toronto.
While Arina's in the midst of a blissful childhood, with a family in Toronto offering her guidance, unconditional love and the types of opportunities Vika never had, Vika's stepping out into the world as an adult for the first time, moving to another city and leaving behind the only support base she's ever known. Vika hasn't seen her younger sister since Arina left Ukraine for Toronto, but her ultimate goal is to one day reunite with her sister, the only family she has left, and start a life in Canada.
We began research for the documentary film in early 2016 after a conversation with an NGO revealed the gruesome odds Ukrainian orphans face once they leave their orphanages.
In August of 2016, we flew a small crew to the Carpathian mountains in Western Ukraine to begin shooting a trailer and develop a pitch package. During that trip, we met the charismatic Vika, who was willing to open up her life to us.
By November, we were at the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam (IDFA) with the pitch package and trailer. Working with commissioning editors and filmmakers from across the world, we sculpted a final pitch, and took it back to Toronto.
With the significant distribution opportunities provided through digital storytelling, the Black Hawk production company signed a deal in January 2017 with CBC Short Docs, a new digital strand, to make the film for their online audience.
Over the course of the next year, the film took us between Canada and Ukraine. Knowing that it'd take a long time to get what we were looking for, we were patient with the story. Ultimately, things didn't go according to plan as the initial hope to reunite the girls in Toronto over the summer didn't work out. We'd assumed that moment would act as the climax of our film, so when it didn't happen, we had to take a long look over our story. After a month of combing through the footage, we edited a first cut.
While we had stunning shots created by Toronto cinematographer Marta Iwanek, and surreal views of the surrounding landscapes from our drone videography, what truly made this film was these girls drive to remain united as a family despite the distance.
Although it was originally planned to be released for Christmas, on December 24th, 2017, we thought we had a good opportunity for a world premiere at Hot Docs. We waited, with fingers crossed, and are extraordinarily thankful to have been chosen for the prestigious film festival.