Release date:May 11, 2006
Starring:Amy Grappell, Sean Eden, Peter McCabe, Oleksi Bohdanovych, Larisa Nedin, Mykola Shkaraban, Natalia Shevchenko, Olesia Zhulynsky, Mariana Sadovska, Jason Bauer, Shona Tucker
Summer 1991. Glasnost. Perestroika. The Soviet Union opens its doors to the West. In New York, a troupe of young actors from the La Mama theater in New York gather to participate in the first American/Ukrainian cultural exchange theater project in history. As an actress in the theater group, American filmmaker Amy Grappell brought along a cinematographer to document this historic cultural exchange. The troupe begins to rehearse the play "Light From the East," a docu-drama that explores the life and work of the nationally acclaimed Ukrainian theater director Les Kurbas. Despite political resistance, Kurbas and his company revolutionized the Ukrainian theater of the 1920s by introducing world classics to the Ukrainian stage. Kurbas' dream of internationalizing the Ukrainian theater clashed with government ideals, leading to his assassination in one of Stalin's purges. As the production nears, Gorbachev is kidnapped, the Kremlin is overthrown by a military coup, and the entire USSR is plunged into volatile uncertainty. The troupe finds itself trapped at the epicenter of a political revolution. Inspired by the courage of the Ukrainian people who in their fight for independence, squelch the coup and seize their liberty, the actors remain in Ukraine, determined to put on the show rather than leave, as encouraged by the American Embassy. As rehearsals progress the play ironically begins to mirror action in the streets. Kurbas and his company struggled to make art during the revolution that ushered in Communism; the American troupe performs the life of Kurbas as the walls of Communism come tumbling down. In between rehearsals, Amy and her host Natalia, conduct informal interviews with average Ukrainians that provide meditations on freedom. Ukrainians show Americans that the concept of freedom is complex and that after nearly a century of repression it will take time for most to feel "free". During the massive political change of 1991, "Light" takes the viewer on a philosophical inquiry into the meaning of freedom and artistic expression. As the tour ends, Ukraine declares its national independence, and the American troupe faces the powerful lesson that freedom comes from within.