Almost Holy

Directed by Steve Hoover

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine's social and political institutions faced massive change, including an increasingly corrupt government and crippled infrastructure. A number of the nation's youth wound up homeless and addicted to a lethal cocktail of injected cold medicine and alcohol. In the early 2000s a pastor from Mariupol named Gennadiy Mokhnenko took up the fight against child homelessness by forcibly abducting street kids and bringing them to his Pilgrim Republic rehabilitation center—the largest organization of its kind in the former Soviet Union. Gennadiy's ongoing efforts and unabashedly tough love approach to his city's problems has made him a folk hero for some, and a lawless vigilante to others. Despite criticism, Gennadiy is determined to continue his work.

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  • ★★★★ review by Adam Patterson on Letterboxd

    Crocodile Gennadiy is a deeply troubling film, but the message behind it is pure, and the work of Mokhnenko is an inspiration to anyone who feels like they can’t make a difference in the lives to those around them. This is easily one of the best documentaries I’ve seen this year and a highly recommended watch.

    Full review: Here

  • ★★★★ review by Isaque de Paula on Letterboxd

    Tremendously well made and focused documentary on the youth street life of Ukraine, and a pastor turned vigilante attempting to make his country a slightly better place.

    Horrifically dark at points, there's no attempt to hide the blunt reality of these situations. Kids as young as 5 hooked on drugs and alcohol, abused physically and sexually by their own parents, some proper stomach churning stories.

    Pastor Gennadiy is an extremely charasmatic and compellingly complicated figure. We see him struggle for 15 years in what seems to be fight with no end.

    The film's bigger ideas politically are conveyed fluidly thanks to some precise editing in glueing the separate stories thematically. It all comes together emotionally in a natural and completely devastating way.

  • ★★★½ review by Joel Mayward on Letterboxd

    Imagine The Overnighters, but set in a living hell, complete with drug addiction, poverty, violence, abuse, and abandonment. "It's Ukraine," says the pastor. And it's heartbreaking. The chosen style of blurred, shallow focus and montage-like edits make it all feel a bit scattered, like a fever dream or living nightmare, and I found it distracting. It'll take some time to wrap my mind around the whole film, but its content alone is worth consideration, if you're up for feeling burdened and depressed.

  • ★★★★★ review by Sofía Téllez on Letterboxd

    Gennadiy es un sacerdote ucraniano que se dedica a recoger a niños de la calle para luego desintoxicarlos, muchas veces en contra de su propia voluntad. En el documental queda retratado el crudo sistema de Gennadiy: los morros la pasan terrible antes de poder salir de las drogas. Con no poca violencia, consigue que muchos de ellos se conviertan en jóvenes "de bien", aunque sus métodos son cuestionables. Hacia el final de la película, los conflictos entre Rusia y Ucrania amenazan lo que ha conseguido este señor y uno no puede sentir sino una desesperanza horrible porque todo se siente muy cercano.

    Salí del cine con la sensación de que todo en el mundo está mal y yo no estoy haciendo nada para ayudar a evitarlo.

  • ★★★★ review by Anika on Letterboxd

    Well made captivating documentary about a very interesting character.

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