Almost Holy | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Almost Holy

A locally produced documentary profiles a Ukrainian pastor who works with homeless kids

This 2015 documentary is the second feature from the Pittsburgh-based team behind 2013’s award-winning Blood Brother; it premiered locally at the Three Rivers Film Festival under the name Crocodile Gennadiy. The film, directed by Steve Hoover and shot over three years, profiles a Ukrainian pastor, Gennadiy “Crocodile” Mohnkenko. The charismatic “Crocodile” — he derives his nickname from a Soviet-era cartoon about a helpful reptile — had spent more than a decade helping to rehab street kids, through methods both conventional and unconventional. “Who will do it?” asks Mohnkenko, referring to his work rescuing abused, neglected and drug-addicted kids from the streets of Mariupol, an industrial port city, which in 2014 became embroiled in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine armed conflict.

Adding to the film’s intimacy is material Hoover incorporated from Mohnkenko’s own archives, covering 2000-2008. (This material contains some troubling images of abused children.) The film doesn’t shy away from darkness, whether it’s Mohnkenko’s work, which strays into vigilantism (“I had no legal right to take the child — I did it for moral reasons”); the despairing outcomes for many of the kids; the pollution-choked town; or the disruption caused by the conflict with Russia. A somber score, composed by Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross and Bobby Krlic, adds another layer of darkness.

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