The film The Songs of Old Europe – Ancient Belarusian Folk Songs has been awarded Best Feature Documentary in the Canadian Creation International Film Festival 2016 Summer. It was directed and produced by Volya Dzemka, a Belarusian living in the USA.
The documentary is the first ever English-language documentary about Belarusian folk songs, considered to be the oldest unaltered songs in Europe by ethnographers. Part of the film’s budget was crowdfunded through Indiegogo, the rest was financed by Volya with her day-time job as a translator at Microsoft and personal loans.
Volya Dzemka fell in love with Belarusian folk songs when, as a student, she saw a group of young girls performing them. “My mind was immediately consumed by the unfamiliar harmonies, which are based on the ancient Greek musical scales”.
The 60-minute documentary offers an intimate, rare look into a very different world that has been isolated for centuries.
While filming in Belarus, Dzemka witnessed with sadness the slow death of her homeland’s native songs first-hand. In the village of Polansk, where she owns a house, and which was a bustling place fifteen years ago, there were no cars or children on the streets, and only a few babushkas.
“I work as hard as I can,” Dzemka said, “so that our babushkas will be able to see the film and know that people around the world will talk about them and listen to their songs.”
Even more importantly, Volya Dzemka has ensured that this valuable piece of history stays alive.