A film ballad from Bukovina in southwestern Ukraine covers one decade (roughly 1940–1950), with the country undergoing a turbulent development. Territorial conflicts with neighbouring Romania, Nazi occupation, and liberation by the Red Army, in the wake of which a new life bothered by shadows of the past in the form of desperate chauvinism – all those events get reflected in the life of the poor Zvonars family whose four sons get entangled in the twists and turns of their homeland's history.
Originally a director of photography, Ilyenko right at the start of his career turned attention to his dynamic and poetic camerawork, seemingly indifferent to time and spatial continuity in the famous film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964). He then went on to become an independent filmmaker, acquiring international fame as the director of The White Bird Marked with Black, which successfully screened also in Czechoslovakia at the time.
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