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1926, First Film Studio VUFKU (Odesa), 7 parts / 2,268 m, 62 min
The film is set in the 17th century, when social antagonism is at its peak. The poverty of peasants and poor Cossacks is opposed to the lavish lifestyle of the Ukrainian and Polish noblemen, priests, and Cossack officers. Cossacks fight off Tatars’ attacks, however, they start to realise that the real enemy is much closer. Taras Triasylo raises Cossacks to help the rebellious peasants.
A dramatic historical narrative, masterly mass shootings of horse attacks, hand-to-hand combats and public festivities contrast with lounge scenes in the palace – balls, feasts, and entertainment of rich people and their family members wearing brocade clothes. On a grand scale and with an eye for detail, the director draws the texture of the film and its characters. The types of Cossacks were selected based on Repin’s painting Zaporozhian Cossacks which hung in Chardynin’s office at Odesa Film Studio. The studio then turned into an armoury museum and a museum of artefacts related to the history of the Zaporozhian Sich.
The leading actors of Les Kurbas’s theatre Berezil played film protagonists. Amvrosii Buchma embodied the romanticised character of Zaporozhians’ leader Taras Triasylo. The role of his sister, the love of whom a young nobleman is seeking, was played by Nataliia Uzhvii.
The role of the cruel noble girl belonged to the director’s wife Marharyta Barska, who first played in Dovzhenko’s Love’s Berries. The Cossack’s otaman Kobza was played by the famous theatre actor Zamychkovskyi, it was his cinema début. Although, in the opinion of the film critic E. Hudin’s presented in the magazine Kino, “the history of the Ukrainian theatre is recorded in the wrinkles on his face,” at the end of the 1920s, he played in many VUFKU films (Suspicious Luggage, Hamburg, Taras Shevchenko, Two Days, Benia Kryk).
In the late 1920s, the film was screened abroad more than once. For example, the journalist and director Eugene Deslaw wrote about its successful demonstration in Paris.
Later, the review was published in the Paris film journal Sineopse and pointed to good acting, beautiful scenery and “powerful idea of the film and its realisation.” When demonstrated in Bukovyna (Chernivtsi), which was then part of Romania, the film became a sensation, and people were standing even outdoors. In the Jewish newspaper, The Forward, which was published in the USA and was actively distributed in Eastern Europe, Taras Triasylo was announced as the most prominent VUFKU film. “This is a mass film, huge, indeed, with 10,000 people playing. The tempo is powerful, feels like you hear thousands of Cossack horse hooves and cries of people tortured to death…”
The film based on Volodymyr Sosiura’s verse novel of 1925 was considered lost for a long time. The film critic Liubomyr Hoseiko found it on 16mm film in archives of the French Film Collection where it was stored under the name Tatars. Due to the Dovzhenko Centre’s efforts, the film was returned to Ukraine.