24.02.2023 Events, Film, History

The Hamlet Syndrome at JCTC

TICKETS Friday, Feb 24, 2023 at 7pm ET

Jersey City Theater Center
165 Newark Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07302
Entrance from Barrow Street, Jersey City, NJ, 07302

The screening is presented a year after Russia invaded Ukraine and it is dedicated to brave Ukrainian people fighting the unjust full-scale war on their territory. This event is co-presented with JCTC, Polish Cultural Institute New York, Ukrainian Jersey City.

The Hamlet Syndrome /To be or Not To Be in Ukraine
Directed by Elwira Niewiera & Piotr Rosołowski (Poland)

Poland, Germany, 2022. Run time: 85 min


A few months before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, five young women and men participated in a unique stage production that attempted to relate their war experiences to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. For each of them, the stage is a platform to express their grief and trauma through the famous question, “to be or not to be,” a dilemma that applies to their own lives. The protagonists fight against disappointment, powerlessness, and anger, trying to put their lives back in order while processing their painful past: SLAVIK, who went through the hell of war and captivity as a soldier; KATYA, who longs for her mother’s forgiveness for joining the army, RODION, who escaped from Donbas and is now facing growing homophobia, ROMAN, who is still struggling with the traumatic memories of his experience as a paramedic on the battlefield, and OXANA, who just wants to forget and leave the country. The re-rehearsals for the play are combined with an intense glimpse into the characters’ lives: a powerful portrait of a generation coping with the trauma of war, which now, after Russia invades Ukraine, is their present and future alike.


Katya (aged 34): She comes from Kharkiv. She was a student of international relations in Kyiv when protests started. One day, a crowd of people carried her off with them to the Square. From that day on, she lived at the Maidan – the Independence Square – until the end of the protests. Together with other students, she built barricades and prepared Molotov cocktails. She joined one of the first volunteer battalions when the war broke out. She spent a year and a half fighting. Since 2016, she has worked for the East Ukrainian Center for Civil Initiatives documenting war crimes. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, she has been fighting in the ranks of the Ukrainian Army.

Oxana (aged 34): Theater and film actress. She graduated from the University of Arts in Kharkiv. In December 2013, she joined the protesters at the Maidan. She demanded changes in Ukrainian theaters, where corruption and lawlessness were commonplace, and plays, instead of dealing with issues relevant to Ukraine, were copies of Russian romantic comedies. Since 2014, she has acted in independent theaters, creating dozens of roles cooperating with many social and cultural organizations. Oxana starred in Natalya Vorozhbyt’s Bad Roads and Maryna Er Gorbach’s Klondike. Currently, she is an actress at Teatr Powszechny in Warsaw.

Slavik (aged 30): Originally from the western part of Ukraine. After the outbreak of the war in Donbas, he suspended his acting studies at the Kharkiv University of Arts to volunteer for the army. He ended up at the Donetsk airport, where the bloodiest struggle occurred. In just seven days of constant shelling, he witnessed the death of most of his comrades. He was taken prisoner and eventually released due to his father’s intervention. In recent years, Slavik studied law, and in February 2022, he was commissioned as an officer in the Ukrainian Army. Since Russia’s current invasion of Ukraine began, he has been fighting in its ranks.

Rodion (aged 27): A native of Donetsk, he is a stylist and film costume designer. In 2014, he participated in the pro-Ukrainian protests in Donetsk. Still, when the situation in Donbas began to escalate, he left for Kyiv, where he studied at the Theatre Academy. Apart from his artistic activity, Rodion is also involved in the LGBTQ community in Ukraine. A few days after the outbreak of war, he went to Lviv, where he has been sewing military uniforms and helping organize humanitarian aid for refugees.

Roman (aged 36): Hails from Lviv. Actor of the Lesya Ukrainka Theater and the National Theater in Lviv. In 2015, he was called to military service. Since he did not want to fight with a weapon in hand, he became a paramedic and spent a year and a half on the front line. He pulled wounded soldiers from the battlefield, many of whom he managed to save, risking his life. He was confronted with death almost every day. After returning from the war, he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, he has been a paramedic in the ranks of the Ukrainian Army.

Produced by Magdalena Kamińska & Agata Szymańska Balapolis, Andreas Banz Matthias Miegel Robert Thalheim Kundschafter Filmproduktion In co-production with CANAL + SUDWESTRUNDFUNK; In cooperation with ARTE in association with Chicken&Egg Pictures Cinematography: Piotr Rosołowski; Editing: Agata Cierniak; Music: John Gürtler Jan Miserre; Sound design: Jonathan Schorr; Producer: Magdalena Kamińska Agata Szymańska Andreas Banz Matthias Miegel Robert Thalheim; Production: Balapolis; Kundschafter Filmproduktion; Co-production; CANAL + Eva Witte SUDWESTRUNDFUNK in cooperation with ARTE In association with Chicken&Egg Pictures; Co-financed by Polish Film Institute; With financial support Polish-German Film Fund FFA; Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg Creative Europe Media; German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media Crossing Borders Robert Bosch Stiftung; Literarisches Colloquium Berlin.


Elwira Niewiera is a Polish/German director and screenwriter based in Berlin. In her artistic work, she focuses primarily on social and cultural transformations in Eastern Europe. Her feature documentary Domino Effect (co-directed with Piotr Rosolowski) was shown worldwide at more than 50 festivals, including IDFA, Hot Docs Toronto, and MoMa Doc Fortnight, and won many awards, among which were the Golden Dove at DOK Leipzig Film Festival and the Golden Horn at the Krakow Film Festival. The film received a nomination for the Polish Film Academy Award in the category of Best Documentary. Her last documentary, The Prince and the Dybbuk (co-directed with Piotr Rosolowski), premiered at the 74th Venice Film Festival and was awarded the Lion for the Best Documentary on Cinema and the Polish Film Academy Award for Best Documentary, among others. She is the winner of the 2020 Young German Cinema Award and the prestigious American Chicken & Egg Award 2021.

Piotr Rosołowski is a Polish director, screenwriter, and cinematographer based in Berlin. He graduated from the Katowice Film School and was awarded an Academy of Media Arts scholarship in Cologne. Co-author of Rabbit a la Berlin – Academy Award-nominated short documentary film and co-director of Domino Effect with Elwira Niewiera. Their latest documentary film The Prince and the Dybbuk won the Lion for Best Documentary on Cinema at the 74th Venice Film Festival. Piotr also works as director of photography, he shot many awarded feature and short films, among them: On the line dir. Reto Caffi – Academy Award-nominated short fiction, The Wall of Shadows dir. Eliza Kubarska – awarded with the annual prize of Polish Society of Cinematographers.

The Shadows by Polly Chesnokova (Ukraine) 
2022. Run time: 15 min

This short film will be screened before The Hamlet Syndrome.

Facing the imminence of an arranged marriage, a lesbian couple navigates their future in Western Ukraine, guided by the centuries-old Hutsul myths.

Polly Chesnokova is a student cinematographer at Dartmouth, based in Hanover, New Hampshire. Originally from Kyiv, Ukraine, Polly takes much inspiration from Eastern European cinematic traditions.

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