Almost Holy (4 stars)

Almost Holy

Fascinating documentary about one man's attempts to bring hope to the shadowy streets of a poverty-stricken Ukraine

Pastor Gennadiy Mokhnenko is the self-appointed saviour of the street children of Mariupol in the Ukraine. A mixture of tough love and righteous anger, he prowls the streets like a comic book superhero emerging from the shadows to confront neglectful parents, abusive spouses, corrupt politicians and callous drug dealers. Filmed between 2000 and 2015, Steve Hooper's Almost Holy is a fascinating portrait of the Pastor and a country that is being sucked into the vortex of Vladimir Putin's expansionist ambitions.

Hooper captures a potent sense of a shattered country at the mercy of poverty and corruption. A pall of grey smoke hangs over a Mariupol mired in mud and misery. Mokhnenko is confronted by a seemingly endless succession of youngsters strung out on drugs, living in sewers, freezing on street corners and abandoned by a state that seems to have little investment in their future. You can completely sympathise with him as he assumes the role of judge, jury and executioner when it comes to pharmacies and their illegal trade in drugs, or parents who have failed the basic needs of their children.

Mokhnenko provides sanctuary and the hope of a better future in his children's centre Pilgrim Republic, and has also adopted 32 of the orphan children. His heart is clearly in the right place. The documentary retains a neutral stance towards his activities, although you start to question what gives him the right to play God with other people's lives. Doubt becomes a luxury that few can afford as the years tick by and Ukraine is nudged towards the eye of the storm. In the end, we are left with a powerful account of one man determined to make a difference in a country that is spiralling far beyond any individual's control.

Limited release from Fri 19 Aug.

Almost Holy

  • 4 stars
  • 2015
  • US / Ukraine
  • 1h 40min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Steve Hoover
  • Cast: Gennadiy Mokhnenko
  • UK release: 19 August 2016

Documentary about Pastor Gennadiy Mokhnenko, the tough, righteous, self-appointed saviour of the street children of Mariupol in the Ukraine. The filmmakers keep a neutral stance towards Mokhnenko's activities, but despite his more questionable behaviour he remains a sympathetic figure, considering the way the country is…