The Living Fire

Writer & Director: Ostap Kostyuk


A four-year-long project documenting three generations of Ukrainian Carpathian shepherds in their struggle to keep the age-old trade alive in the face of contemporary changes. 


The film follows three men of different generations living in the Ukrainian Carpathians: Ivan is an 82-year-old retired shepherd who lives a lonely life, having recently buried his wife. At the same time, nine-year-old Ivanko is just beginning his life and studying at the county boarding school, while 39-year-old Vasyl is raising young lambs on his farm. But when spring comes, all three men will head for the mountains following the shepherd’s calling that is becoming ever more difficult to sustain in the contemporary world. 

The title - “living fire” - is the name that highland shepherds give to their central campfire—a protective fire whose flame must remain lit for the entire four-month herding season. The age-old ritual of lighting the “living fire” was maintained in the Hutsul region until the middle of the 20th century.

It is a film about pitiless daily labor that knows no weekends, a harmonious world that we’ve lost in our search for comfort, and the childhood that is left behind when one takes on the role of an adult…

77/52 min


World premiere

National Cinematheque of Ukraine, 2014; TV 52 min.: MaGiKa Film, 2016

Financial support:
With support by the State Film Agency of Ukraine

Screenings and festivals:
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