The history of cinema is filled with characters looking to escape their lives and dreaming of a better tomorrow. Deeply human concerns of self-fulfillment, identity, and purpose drive these stories so it’s no surprise that filmmakers and audiences continue to be drawn to them. In this week’s Staff Pick Premiere, “’Goodbye Golovin” filmmaker Mathieu Grimard adapts this timeless tale into a stylish and moody piece set in Kiev, Ukraine. 

In the aftermath of his father’s death, Ian Golovin decides to take charge of his stalling life and packs his bags for a new country. Featuring newcomer Oleksandr Rudinskiy in a gripping performance, Golovin is a lonely dreamer who narrates his journey with a youthful sense of stubborn determination. 

Grimard’s extensive background in music videos and commercial work infuses the first half of the film with a style that fittingly complements Golovin’s day-dreaming. A chance encounter with his sister’s roommate, who wisely pulls Golovin back to reality, beautifully grounds the film’s last act. 

Ahead of this week’s exclusive Staff Pick Premiere release, we reached out to director Mathieu Grimard to learn more about how this fascinating short film came together.

On the inspiration for the film:

“In the fall of 2017, a documentary in I-D magazine caught my eye. It was about young people in Ukraine searching for freedom in the aftermath of the ‘Maïdan’ revolution of 2014. Out of these revolts, a generation yearning to control their own fates was born. This was the starting point in developing the character of Ian Golovin, a young Eastern European lacking a sense of belonging. 

At the time, I was also looking to travel, to shoot in a culture and a language that was not mine. I find a lot of inspiration in what is foreign to me. At that point, I decided the film would be set in Kiev, Ukraine.”

On the writing process:

“I found in this story the core of a feeling that was also mine, years ago. I once was filled with the desire to leave my hometown for better opportunities. I wrote down what probably would have happened to me if I tried to leave. I don’t think I would have been able to tell this story if it hadn’t been personal and human to begin with.

The screenplay was written in French, then translated into English and then into Ukrainian and Russian. Fun fact, ‘Goodbye Golovin’ was my first screenplay experience, so I watched Aaron Sorkin’s online Masterclass while writing, which helped me structure the story.”

On the influences from music videos and commercial work:

“The sense of rhythm and style are highly solicited when directing music videos. Above all, they force you to be creative with small budgets. My commercial work has allowed me to finance ‘Goodbye Golovin.’

Advertising is also where I have built creative and friendly relationships with the producer (Simon Corriveau-Gagné) and the cinematographer (Ariel Methot). We knew what we had to do to maximize our trip to Kiev. My challenge was to tell a story that was going to live up to our craft.”

On the universal themes of the film:

“The decision to tell the story from a human level and not making this film a geo-political story are probably the reasons why the film resonates with so many people. You can leave the countryside for the nearest metropolis or leave your country for another. In any case we leave things behind, and we dive into a part of the unknown.

The sense of freedom experienced in Kiev back in 2014 was a starting point, an inspiration, but it was important for me not to make a political film. I wanted to bring this feeling to human level. I felt that anyone could identify with it.”

On working with the cast:

“Oleksandr Rudinskiy and I struggled to communicate due to the language barrier. Our line producer, Serhiy Solod’ko, had to act as the interpreter for every single communication between the two of us. That was quite a challenge.

Oleksandr understood the character and his motivations very well. He’s one of the best actors that I have had the chance to work with and today he benefits from a great reputation in Ukraine.”

On advice to aspiring filmmakers:

“I still feel like I’m an aspiring filmmaker sometimes, but being intuitive works for me. I also feel confident when I draw my stories from what is very intimate and personal. I could also say, focus on crafting a good script and good acting.”

On what’s next: 

“I’m working on a new film project, which could very well become a series. It touches on religion and youth.”

Check out more Staff Pick Premieres