When Russia invaded Ukraine, Marshall Strauss wanted to do something to help the Ukrainian people. It was the natural instinct of someone who had spent years running nonprofits and raising money for important causes. These days, though, Strauss and his wife own a local movie theater. So what did Strauss decide to do? Show a movie, of course.
That movie was the 2014 Ukrainian drama The Guide, which had its U.S. premiere at Strauss’s small community cinema in Salem, MA, last year. The packed screening raised $12,000 for Ukrainian relief efforts and sparked interest from hundreds of other movie theaters wanting to make a difference. Since that first screening, The Guide has played on screens all over the country and as far away as Australia and the Netherlands, raising more than $150,000.
That journey comes to the Independent Picture House Thursday, July 20, with a special screening of The Guide. Proceeds will go to Stand with Ukraine Through Film, which awards grants to international relief organizations such as World Central Kitchen and to Ukrainian-American groups. After the screening, the film’s young star, Anton Greene — now a University of Michigan student — will appear virtually for an audience Q&A.
For Strauss, once he found The Guide last year, the whole project came together quickly. “I had a way to get to the director of the film, Oles Sanin, who at the time was in Kiev, along with everybody else waiting for the Russian tanks to show up,” Strauss says. “By the miracle of email, I asked if we could show the film and dedicate all the proceeds to humanitarian relief for Ukraine. He jumped at the idea and said, absolutely. Then I asked if I could offer the same deal to other movie theaters, and he said yes.”
The Guide is set in the 1930s, when Ukraine was under the control of the Soviet Union and suffering a devastating famine that killed millions. Peter, a Ukrainian-American boy who is orphaned and on the run, joins up with a blind musician who helps him see the world in a different way. Beautifully shot and hugely successful in Ukraine, the film was the Ukrainian entry for best foreign language film at the 87th Academy Awards.
You should see it, Strauss says, not just because of the funds it’s raising for Ukrainians. See it, he says, “because it’s a good film!”