The art of the documentary is an art of editing; no matter how fascinating the subject, the movie might not work if filmmakers can’t shape their footage into something resembling a narrative. Director Steve Hoover has a fascinating subject indeed in Gennadiy Mokhnenko, a Ukrainian pastor who runs a youth rehab facility in the town of Mariupol. We see the feisty Mokhnenko in his activities rounding up street kids, removing children from the homes of unfit parents and threatening drug dealers and other predators, his sense of divine purpose rarely hindered by the fact that he’s basically a vigilante, doing the social work the shaky government is unable or unwilling to do. That dynamic alone could have made for a terrific story, but Hoover keeps bouncing back and forth between some of the individuals Mokhnenko is trying to help, then circling back to a speech he’s giving in a women’s prison, then intercutting snippets from a Davey and Goliath-esque Ukranian children’s TV program. By the time the film begins to focus on a violent rebellion against the Russian-friendly Ukrainian government, Mokhnenko himself has begun to seem lost in the smoke.
Director: Steve Hoover
Producer: Danny Yourd, Terrence Malick, Nicolas Gonda, Michael Killen, Kathy Dziubek and Jim Kreitzburg