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Available for rent


Ukraine, 2020

Production : Anna Diskant

Programmed by Gabrielle Ouimet


French, English

Special Prize 2021 - Ji.hlava Documentary Film Festival, Czech Republic

Special Series on Ukraine


World War II caused the filmmaker’s family to move to Mariupol. The war with Russia and environmental consequences of the plant’s operation play a key role in its future.

A word from Tënk

Territory Of Empty Windows, shot in 2020, opens with archival footage depicting the ruins of Mariupol after German bombardment in World War II. It then follows the process of the reconstruction of the destroyed steel plant, Azovstal. In the following decades, this rebuilt factory on one hand became a symbol of the city’s economic revival, giving jobs to its residents, but on the other hand, emitting toxic fumes and poisoning all of the life around it, including its workers. The film shows Zoya’s mom, a former employee of the factory, fighting terminal cancer.


Zoya’s film shows daily life around the Azovstal factory. It captures simple moments with her family and animals with love and dark humour as a survival strategy. In one of the scenes the filmmaker takes us for a walk with her dad and their little dog. On their way, her father runs into some friends, they share a round of vodka shots, joke around and casually chat about a bullet that Zoya’s dad has in his leg since the time when he was shot while peacefully walking on the street.


Today Azovstal factory is under constant shelling and serves as a shelter to a 1000 civilians and Ukrainian armed resistance who refuse to surrender. It’s the last place in Mariupol that has not been captured by Russia.


Today Zoya is faced with the disturbing fact that her dark cinematic vision is a real horror unfolding in front of her eyes. She writes: “In Territory Of Empty Windows, I imagined that all the people who live in the city are in danger because of their long proximity to war. In one of the frames we see heaps of sand in the courtyard of the house that resemble graves. Now in Mariupol, there are a lot of graves in the courtyards of houses and on playgrounds, because people were buried there when it was still possible to do so. Then the corpses were simply left to lie on the street.” Another arresting image from this film is one that depicts a beach full of hundreds of shiny round jellyfish lying flat and still on the sandy beach. It reminds me of the scene in the sand room in Tarkovsky’s Stalker, a film that was a surreal prophecy of the tragedy to come in Chernobyl.


The cycles of violence and death repeating over and over are what lie at the center of Zoya’s cinematic work. While over the last four years she has been documenting an already painful reality in her hometown, I wondered if she would be able to continue working in the context of the current events. I asked: “How did the most recent invasion change you as a documentary filmmaker (if it did)? Do you have an impulse to pick up your camera? Or quite the opposite?” She answered: “For a whole month I thought that a full-scale war had killed the documentarian in me. But after some time in a safe place outside of Ukraine, I started to come back to my senses and think about a feature-length documentary. For me, it was supposed to be my last film about Mariupol, a farewell to the city for personal reasons. The new film that I’m working on now is called Ashes settling in layers on the surface, a title born from a translation of the Russian word Kopot. It is the black smoke coming from factory chimneys and from crematoriums. How did I know that that metaphor would soon cease to be a metaphor? I use the medium of the film to try to make sense of what is happening. I am rewriting the treatment and the synopsis. Right now it is so much easier for me than in the beginning but I know that I will cry a lot later.”




Kinga Michalska
Visual artist, filmmaker, educator



Item 1 of 4
Item 1 of 4

Item 1 of 4