This might be summer's best superhero movie – a doc about a famous Ukrainian priest who hauls drug addicted kids off the street into rehab
‘Holy. Almost.’ That’s Ukrainian pastor Gennadiy Mokhnenko speaking. He’s the charismatic star of this doc produced by Terrence Malick, and he’s talking to a man he’s dragged out of a sewer that’s home to street children in the city of Mariupol. The kids say the man hangs around, paying boys for oral sex. The pastor hauls him to the police, where the guy tells a cop that the pastor’s crew beat him up. Gennadiy shrugs. As flawed heroes go, he’s ten times more compelling than Batman, Superman and the rest of the Lycra-clad vigilantes in this summer’s blockbusters.
Pastor Gennadiy is famous in Ukraine for scooping drug-addicted kids off the streets and detoxing them in his children’s home with a mix of tough love and boxing. He’s adopted 32 kids with his wife and looks like an old-school Bond Euro villain: no neck, black leather jacket, shaved head. But he’s no knucklehead. He reads Dostoyevsky and is gentle with the vulnerable. Is he a vigilante, taking the law into his own hands? Or a real-life superhero? The doc is maybe a little one-sided, but it’s fascinating. The scenes of boys – as young as ten or 11 – with track marks, open sores and blank lifeless eyes are upsetting, though.