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Break the Circle tells the stories of women who have changed their lives by breaking the circle of violence. However, these changes are a long and difficult process of working on yourself and your relationships with the world around you. From calling the police, living in a shelter to finding themselves again, women dare to embark on this path for their own and their children’s sake.

Maria Efrosinina, Honorary Ambassador of UNFPA Ukraine, came up with the idea.

The film was made with the support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Ukraine as part of the EMBRACE Project to Combat and Prevent Gender-Based Violence with the support of the UK government.

The grand première was opened by Mr Jaime Nadal, Representative of the United Nations Population Fund in Ukraine.

“Since 2015, UNFPA has been working on developing mechanisms to effectively combat gender-based violence in Ukraine. For the 6 years that the awareness-raising and educational campaign Break the Circle has been active, dozens of effective partnerships have been built around this concept. Gender-based violence has become a visible problem and a priority for the Ukrainian government. This documentary aims to help even more women break the circle, seek help and start a new life without violence,” said Jaime Nadal, UNFPA Representative in Ukraine.

The world première of the film was attended by the First Lady of Ukraine, Ms Olena Zelenska. She shared her impressions of the film with the audience.


“Potential abusers and victims live among us. Identifying a potential abuser in yourself is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your future to break the cycle of violence. I really liked the comparison with kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing ceramics. When broken things are mended, they are much more expensive than ‘healthy’, unbroken ones. In the same way, ‘mended’, healed relationships are much more valuable. I admire the main characters of the film, Iva and Oleksandra, admire their strength and courage,” said First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska.

The film was directed by Yelizaveta Smith, one of the brightest young directors in the country.

Her début feature-length documentary, School #3 (co-directed with Georg Genoux), premièred at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival and won the Grand Prix in the Generation 14+ category. Her short film Solitude (2019) has already participated in 15 film festivals and is still travelling the world. Highlights include Odesa International Film Festival, Raindance Film Festival, London Super Shorts Film Festival, Venice Film Week. It also received six awards, was nominated as the best short film for the Golden Dzyga Award of the Ukrainian Film Academy and was part of international programmes such as Berlinale Talents, TorinoFilmLab, The Write Retreat, MidPoint Feature Launch, etc. Yelizaveta Smith is a member of the Ukrainian and European film academies.

The film was produced by Olha Beskhmelnitsyna.

Her professional career in production has spanned almost 10 years. The most famous films that Olha worked on include Stop-Zemlia by Kateryna Hornostai (Crystal Bear at Berlinale 2021), Ivan’s Land, a documentary by Andrii Lysetskyi (winner of the main prize of DOCU/UKRAINE of 18th International Festival of Human Rights Docudays UA, winner of the National Competition of the Kharkiv MeetDocs Film Festival in 2021).

After the screening, the audience gave a standing ovation to the heroines of the film, their impressive courage and honesty.

“Documentaries are always about exploring the world. This topic is very complex and heavy, but we were lucky to meet the main characters of our documentary, Oleksandra Lebedynska and Iva Stishun, who made this film into what it is, filled it with light. While working on this film, I realised that violence does not come from nothing and it has its specific roots, which often go back to childhood. The cycle of violence does not only take place between two people in a relationship but affects generations of families. I want to thank our documentary heroines for their openness, courage and strength, because they were the reason we were able to make this film,” said Yelizaveta Smith, director.

The film will soon be available online.

Film production team:

Maria Efrosinina, author of the idea;

Yelizaveta Smith, director and screenwriter;

Viacheslav Tsvetkov, cinematographer;

Olha Beskhmelnitsyna, producer;

Oleksii Bevz and Andrii Nedzelskyi, sound directors;

Maryana Klochko, composer;

Yelizaveta Smith, Semen Mozhovyi and Olha Zhurba, editors;

Yevhen Rachkovskyi, project manager.

The screening was part of the Break the Circle information campaign within a large-scale UNFPA programme to combat and prevent domestic and gender-based violence in Ukraine. The project aims to strengthen the role of cities in building sustainable protection mechanisms and providing assistance to victims of domestic violence.