Hlib Zatvornytskyi


Hlib Zatvornytskyi was a director of VUFKU and amateur films, a scriptwriter, a pedagogue. In the opinion of his contemporaries, he was “an intellectual, a bibliophile and a cynic” as well as “an absolute looser in his creative work.”

He began his creative career in 1919, when he founded and became a director of the first Soviet school theatre.

In the autumn that year, 17-year-old Zatvornytskyi and a group of actors were arrested while on tour to Odesa and Sevastopol. Soon, he was sent to Kyiv where he was under investigation for some time.

Starting 1921, he was an activist of Futurism movement, and collaborated with Futurists till 1925 stating that “art must be subordinate to life, and artist must work in manufacturing.” He published his articles in the journal Nova Generatsiia.

In 1921, he was sent to study in Moscow at Meyerhold Theatre. In one year, he returned to Kyiv to Berezil theatre. In 1925, he worked as a scriptwriter and director of Experimental Film Studio where together with his students he made films Now (1928) and Jack of Hearts (1928).

Together with Ivan Perestiani he wrote a script for the film Avalanche (1928) shot at VUFKU studio in Odesa. He lectured at Moscow State Cinema Institute (1933) for one semester; worked with students-scriptwriters individually for two years, and later, headed the school for young directors at Kyiv Film Studio.

Together with his old friend Lazar Frenkel (in the 1920s they tried to create an independent film studio by Kyiv Komunkult Theatre) he made the children’s film Tom Sawyer (1936). However, in two years he was arrested again, this time during the shooting of Oleksandr Dovzhenko’s film Shchors (1939), where he assisted the director and worked on the Russian text of the script. He was arrested over drug abuse.

When interrogated as a witness, Mykola Bazhan called the director “a typical looser in creative work” and added, “Failures seemed to be the main reason of Hlib Zatvornytskyi’s recklessness and lack of stability in his private life, the reason of his unhealthy habits like morphinism and opium smoking.”

When released from prison in 1940, he worked as a pedagogue at the acting school of Ivan Franko Theatre. During World War II, he stayed in occupied Kyiv, started his own theatre studio Hrono and took his plays on tours to Berlin. After the war, he returned to Ukraine where he was arrested for cooperation with the Nazi Germans and sentenced to 25 years in camps.