Stefan Bugryn: Films That Changed My Life

June 8, 2019
On the eve of his short documentary War Mothers: Unbreakable screening at the Sydney Film Festival, we asked the emerging filmmaker about the films that have left a mark on him.

War Mothers: Unbreakable follows 18 year old Yana Zinkewych who, when war came to Ukraine in 2014, created a local chapter of an ancient order of battle medics to assist the sick and injured soldiers returning to from the front to little or no care. But three years into the conflict, Yana’s life and work comes to a crashing halt.

Co-directed by Stefan Bugryn and Steven Zelko, War Mothers: Unbreakable premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and will now enjoy its Australian premiere at the 2019 Sydney Film Festival.

The short documentary is actually part of a series, the first of which was simply titled War Mothers.

We asked Stefan Bugryn to tell us about 5 films that changed his life, and this is what he came up with.

Captain Phillips

I’ll never forget watching this for the first time on a plane to the United States. If I had more legroom I would have literally been on the edge of my seat. In my opinion, this film is the perfect example of how tension and suspense should play out in a film. From one scene to the next, the stakes just keep getting higher and higher, it feels everything is gonna blow up at any second, and all of it was true! What the hell! This was my masterclass in plot progression – how can each scene keep raising the intensity?


I don’t understand why this film hasn’t gotten more praise, no one really talked about it, but I never forgot it. This is fun, enjoyable, simple, moving, all the above from end to end. To me, that’s the purpose of filmmaking, moving someone from A to B, wherever that is. This moves me every time, to my happy place. The guy found himself by simplifying his life, such a nice little story, and that jazz music in New Orleans gets me every time.

City of God

I had a thing about violence and gangster movies when I was younger. I loved the badass characters, I loved gritty storytelling. I loved characters with power, but I also liked things wrapped in reality. City of God was all that – gangsters, cool, fun, violent, and was even set in a place I’d never known much about. This was the most unique  film I watched growing up.

O Brother Where Art Thou?

How good is the music in this film? And the dopey characters, the bizarre storytelling. When the band gets together at the end and sings ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’, I had chills up my spine. It was so entertaining, and always is whenever I rewatch it. It has a great rewatch value by the way.

The Hunt

Mads Mikkelson is one of my favourite actors, and this is his best work. What do you do when a whole town turns against you for a secret that isn’t true. Geez, it’s an impossible scenario, and this film is incredibly gripping. You just feel for the poor guy, it sucks you in utterly and completely.

War Mothers: Unbreakable is screening at the Sydney Film Festival on Thursday, June 13 at 6.40pm at Event Cinemas George St and Sunday June 16 at 12.15pm at Dendy Opera Quays.


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