Partnership for Ukrainian forests
Mavka - The Forest Song is a full-length animated feature produced by Ukraine-based Animagrad film studio. It is currently at the concept stage of development. The film is inspired by a play, “The Forest Song” by Lesya Ukrainka, as well as by various Ukrainian legends and cultural traditions.
At the start of the partnership activities WWF met the team behind Mavka. The Forest Song to explore together the animals and plants listed in the Red Book of Ukraine. The authors’ idea is to populate Mavka’s forest with those rare species, turning some of them into leading characters with their own plot lines. That way, viewers will be able to find out more about the endangered and disappearing animals and plants and the protection they need to survive.
Later, the creative team and producers of Mavka - The Forest Song, their guides from WWF-Ukraine Andriy Plyha and Iryna Myronova and the director of Polissia Natural Reserve Sergey Zhila went on an expedition to the old forest of Polissia. “We often visit forests and natural reserves. But this trip with the Animagrad group was exceptional – the entire time they wanted to see more, to go further. They stopped in front of every detail and kept asking questions. They sincerely care for the problems of the Ukrainian forests, and we told them of our plans to create a program for forest protection,” Iryna Myronova said when sharing her impressions from the trip.
“To get artistic inspiration, to draw landscapes, details and features of the Ukrainian forests for materials that will be used in Mavka - The Forest Song – these were the main goals of the art department during the expedition,” said the project art director Christian Koskinen.
According to the producer Iryna Kostyuk, “We are working towards each of the outlined missions in a very systemic way. The idea is to export Ukrainian culture, create a ‘Mavka style’ and raise public awareness about environmental problems. And I believe that there is no better tool for that than our Mavka.”
During the expedition, not just the beauty and magic of the Ukrainian forests amazed the Mavka’s team. They were shocked by the destruction left as a result of the activities of amber miners. Currently, the National Guard is standing guard in the exploitation zone. An officer of the National Guard joined the expedition and showed the film makers an area of tens of hectares that used to be a beautiful forest but is now reduced to exhausted grounds with deep holes filled with muddy water and empty bottles.
“One of the main Polissia problems is the illegal extraction of amber. The miners hunt for it even on the territory of the nature reserve, on river banks and marshes, destroying a unique ecosystem. Over three hectares of the Poyaskivs’kyi Reserve have been destroyed by those diggers. The second problem is forest cutting, especially oaks that have become really rare. An oak forest takes a long time to restore, which means that we are losing old forests, and new ones do not appear to replace them. And they are inhabited by rare animals and plants facing the threat to disappear along with the trees,” explained Andriy Plyha, coordinator of WWF volunteers in Ukraine.
“This is like experiencing a moment of post-apocalyptic world – abandoned craters, destroyed forest and human traces. The amber-digging that we encountered during the expedition will indirectly make their way into the script of our feature film - our characters will fight to save the forests and stop threatening and dangerous activities,” shared Anna Eliseeva, creative producer of the movie. “We also plan to launch separate apps and web episodes on this topic. A huge part of our social activities will be dedicated to nature protection, featuring the use of #MavkaIsForForests. We would like to do as much as possible with the help of our supporters.”
The film’s production crew includes also experts from leading ethnography institutes. They will ensure the authenticity of the Ukrainian myths and legends, religious beliefs, rituals, and visual culture translated in to the singular animated world of Mavka. Popular band Dakha Brakhahas already committed to creating the film’s soundtrack.
In September 2016, Mavka team won the ninth contest held by the Ukrainian State Film Agency and was awarded state financing in the amount of 30% of the film’s total budget. It is scheduled for release in Ukraine in 2019.