A troubled girl in Ukraine is among the images from the documentary "Gennadiy" being used in a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the movie, by the local filmmakers who created "Blood Brother."
By Barbara Vancheri Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pittsburgh makers of the award-winning documentary "Blood Brother" are in the early stages of their next project, a look at a man in Ukraine who uses unorthodox methods to rescue children from despair, drug use, homelessness and early death.
"Gennadiy" takes its name from Gennadiy Mokhnenko, an activist and operator of an orphanage in a city where street kids sleep in crawl spaces or next to water pipes for warmth and sniff glue or are addicted to a lethal cocktail of injected cold medicine and alcohol. They are trapped in a world where parents often are dead or drunk, and good Samaritans in very short supply.
The filmmakers, once again a team led by "Blood Brother" director Steve Hoover and producer Danny Yourd, met Gennadiy while shooting a 5-minute piece for a nonprofit organization in Ukraine.
They have launched a Kickstarter campaign, with footage as shocking as it is moving, and plan to return there in six weeks for principal photography.
"This guy's kind of like a real-life superhero, vigilante type because during the day he's wearing this priest-looking outfit and at night he's walking around with his motorcycle leathers on," Mr. Yourd said from his day job at Downtown's Animal production company.
"He's like this intimidating guy that you wouldn't want to cross on the street, but when you actually get to know him, he's got a really awesome heart."
Gennadiy's methods are controversial -- he convinces children to climb into his unmarked van, slams the door shut and takes them to a hostel-orphanage where they get warm rooms, beds and a chance to detox.
"His main purpose is to eliminate homelessness and to get people to adopt kids and to help these kids, but because these kids are addicted to drugs, that's also his priority, to get them off those drugs and to detox them," Mr. Yourd said.
"Not every kid who comes through his organization is addicted to drugs or alcohol but a lot of them don't have or have a very poor family structure."
Gennadiy has picked up children as young as 5 and reached out to those as old as 20. It's not easy to do or even witness.
"We went out with Gennadiy a couple of nights looking for kids and experienced his world. They basically found a girl one of the nights walking through the streets naked. We didn't see them get her, but if you look at the teaser on the Kickstarter, you'll see a girl who's really badly beaten up. ... Nobody [else] would take her," Mr. Yourd said.
"If they didn't lock the door from the outside, she would have been gone and back on the street doing alcohol. At night, they lock her in her room and help her detox."
Back at the hotel, the filmmakers wondered aloud if this was the right course of action.
"We want people to ask those same questions, but at the end of the day, we felt like if it wasn't for him, nobody else would really be doing anything. But he questions himself just as much as anybody else -- 'Could I be doing anything better or different or could I have saved this kid's life if I did this or that?' "
The filmmakers hope to spark questions and shine a light on Gennadiy and problems in Ukraine and, as they did with "Blood Brother," to direct some money to his nonprofit organization.
In addition to launching the Kickstarter campaign -- they've raised roughly half of their $40,000 goal -- they plan to pursue grants for post-production.
Mr. Yourd said the team hopes to maintain the same creative freedom as on "Blood Brother," which won the grand jury prize and audience award for U.S. documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival. They aim to have "Gennadiy" ready for submission to festivals in late 2014 and -- "fingers crossed" -- to be accepted into Sundance again.
The announcement of a "Blood Brother" distribution deal is near, but if contributors donate $50 to the "Gennadiy" Kickstarter campaign, they can receive a ticket to a private "Blood Brother" screening Aug. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont along with other rewards.