Film Review: Almost Holy

Matters of right and wrong in terms of ethics and morality are, by and large, fairly black and white in the Western world. The same cannot be said in Eastern Europe today. The disintegration of the Soviet Union and civil war in the former Yugoslavia has created a whole raft of social and economic problems. Poverty aside, drug and alcohol abuse are rife. The shadow of war looms large over everyday life and corruption abounds. Enter Gennadiy Mokhnenko, the self styled Pastor Crocodile, who makes it his mission to rescue children and give them a decent life.

Steve Hoover, director of the award-winning Blood Brother, follows the charismatic and controversial preacher as he goes about his job. There’s so much to admire about the ex-military man. The founder of Republic Pilgrim, the largest network of children’s rehabilitation centres in Ukraine, he spends his days rescuing and rehabilitating drug addicted kids in Mariupol. His methods are unorthodox but he believes in using force if it helps him achieve his moral mission.

Almost Holy is a documentary that at times feels like a thriller or piece of investigative journalism, helped by a brilliant soundtrack by Atticus Ross. It’s a powerful and often upsetting film which doesn’t question his actions or motives. It merely documents his work. It would be easy to sit in a (relatively) safe country with good support services, a free health service, honest policing and judge Gennadiy harshly. Whilst he’s definitely a vigilante who uses force and tough-love to get results, I think only God can call this one.

Almost Holy is out in cinemas on Friday.

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