Filming On the Edge

The fourth thematic seminar of DocNomads Academy was held at the conference hall of Premier Kultcafé in Budapest under the overarching topic “Filming On the Edge - Making Films in Dictatorships, Riots, and War Zones – Ethical and Practical Questions of a Filmmaker”.

Roman Bondarchuk and Alba Sotorra were invited to present their films Ukrainian Sheriffs (2015) and Commander Aria (2018) followed by masterclasses in which these directors shared insights on their filmmaking methods, ethical decisions, challenging choices, and life-changing experiences while filming in regions stormed by the events of war.





10:00 – 11:30 - Screening of Ukrainian Sheriffs (2015) by Roman Bondarchuk


In the film we follow Viktor and Volodya, two men who have been appointed local sheriffs by the mayor in the town of Stara Zburyevka, Ukraine. While dealing with crimes such as stolen ducks and drunken neighbours, the news about the war is slowly creeping in on them through their televisions and the invitations to join the army. Ukrainian Sheriffs gives us look beyond the war and inside everyday life in a Ukrainian village, with a great eye for the shady side of life.

12:00 – 14:00 - Masterclass of ROMAN BONDARCHUK


In the master class, I will talk about the process of making the film “Ukrainian Sheriffs”. How the idea transformed over time - from an ironic comedy of situations to a mural of the country’s recent history on the example of a small village: with its heroes, separatists, army drafts and paradoxical rituals. About the found shooting method and film style. About ethical challenges when working with characters during filming, as well as after the premiere. About editing decisions in the film – the principle 1 scene = 1 message, about waiting for the opening scene and searching for the final one. About formulating messages in trailers and searching for a graphic embodiment of the film in posters. About the press kit and promo elements during the premiere and release of the film. About the search for integrity and recognizability of the film in all its elements.


Roman is an award-winning film director who has produced films for festivals and television throughout the world. Among his best-known films are Ukrainian Sheriffs, Euromaidan: Rough Cut, and Volcano.

Roman’s feature-length documentary UKRAINIAN SHE RIFFS won the Special Jury Prize at IDFA in 2015 and was selected as the Ukrainian submission to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

His second documentary DIXIE LAND (2016) premiered at the Full Frame Film Festival USA and received a Golden Duke Award for Best Ukrainian Film at the Odesa International Film Festival.

Bondarchuck received the Shevchenko National Prize, Ukraine’s highest state prize for cultural works, for directing Volcano. The film won the Grand Prize at international film festivals in Armenia, Croatia, China and Morocco. The film won 11 international awards and was included in the program of more than 40 international festivals.

Roman also works as an art director and member of the selection committee of the International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival Docudays UA.

He has been a member of the selection committee for the Ukrainian submissions to the Academy Awards since 2019.

Roman is a member of the Ukrainian Union of Cinematographers, as well as the Ukrainian Film Academy. From 2020 to 2023, he worked as a member of its board.

15:30-17:00 – Screening of Commander Arian (2018) by Alba Sotorra


On the frontline of the Syrian war, a 30-year-old commander leads her female battalion to retake an ISIS-controlled city and emerges severely wounded, forcing her to redefine herself in this empowering tale of emancipation and freedom.

17:30-19:30 – Masterclass of ALBA SOTORRA


I have filmed in Afghanistan, Iran, Turkish Kurdistan, Iraq and Syria. During my lecture I will address questions about security, grief, and the limits of our involvement. Before my first trip to a conflict zone my mother told me “Be careful, there are doors you open that you will not be able to close again”. It took me a while to understand what she meant. Making documentaries means getting involved in new realities that will be part of you forever. The people you meet, the injustice you see, the pain, the horror, will be part of your own reality and you will have to learn to live with it.

When I film in conflict zones, I never work with fixers, but rather build relationships of friendship and trust with the local people, who become part of my crew. This is key for safety and to better understand the complexities of the territory, but on the other hand it makes me vulnerable: I have loved people who died and I have mourned alone, back in my country, as no one around me knew them. I would love to share my experiences, mistakes, errors... in the hope that they can help you identify what are the biggest risks of filming in war zones. I will also share tips on what equipment to take, bringing a crew with you or going alone, and how to film “the action”.



EAVE graduate Alba Sotorra has produced feature documentaries and fiction films for cinema and television since 2005.

She graduated from cinema school in Madrid (UCM 2003) and has an MA on Cultural Studies (2008).

She participated in SOURCES 2 (2010), Berlinale Talent Campus (2011), Dokincubator (2014), IDFA Academy (2015) and EAVE Producers Workshop (2017).

She is member of Dones Visuals.

She is founder and director of the company Alba Sotorra (


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