Almost Holy

 

 

 

Life in the Ukraine featuring a saint and many sinners, young and old.

 

Almost Holy

Pastor Crocodile

 

Gennadiy Mokhnenko is a pastor born in the Ukraine and living in Mariupol where he runs the largest rehabilitation centre in the former Soviet Union. It is known as the Pilgrim Republic and the pastor’s work there among the poor and needy explains why - as per the original title of this film - he is sometimes referred to as Crocodile Gennadiy: that's a reference to a classic Russian animated movie detailing the good works of a character named Crocodile Gena which is seen here in passing.

 

The present film was written and directed by Steve Hoover who has been following the pastor around for some considerable time recording his impassioned speeches and showing him at work aiding those he scoops off the streets in Mariupol. Many are children who need to be weaved off drugs, but abused wives are helped too. If his actions are seen by some as controversial, it is because he openly declares that his work is necessary on account of the inadequacy of the police and the authorities generally. Parents and spouses who deny the actions of which they are accused are doubtless among those who brand Mokhnenko a vigilante and accuse him of seeking fame and power. It is also the case that he is a Ukrainian patriot totally hostile to Russia and its incursions into this region and so is not beloved by all.

 

But, if one can see that he would have enemies, that aspect is scarcely investigated here and, although Hoover has declared that he doesn’t want to influence audiences in forming their own conclusions, the fresh title, Almost Holy, seems to reflect the film’s attitude to its central figure. Little use is made of Mokhnenko’s wife and his two young sons who appear only briefly but whose lives must have been affected radically by his doings. So, perhaps, the picture should have been given a wider focus. One also has doubts about the uncharacteristic sense of symbolism present in the final scenes, while captions covering time jumps can be rather off-putting (never mind that we have ‘2000 - 2008’ at one point, it is actually followed later by ‘2000 - 2008 continued’!). However, these are mere quibbles and, using both colour and the ’Scope format, Hoover neatly brings off a paradoxical effect. The film persuasively makes us feel that we just happen to be present to witness the kind of events that make up the day-to-day life of this remarkable man, but at the same time we are aware that every shot in this feature is immaculately composed. The film may leave us asking questions but it provides a remarkable insight into a grim world and the transformative powers of one man.

  

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring: Pastor Gennadiy Mokhnenko.

                                                                                                                

Dir Steve Hoover, Pro Danny Yourd, Ex Pro Terrence Malick, Screenplay Steve Hoover, Ph John Pope, Ed Steve Hoover, Music Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross and Bobby Krlc.

 

Animal Media Group-Curzon Artificial Eye.
96 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 19 August 2016. Cert. 15.