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Babcock Theater showing award-winning Ukrainian film to raise awareness

Posted at 9:37 PM, May 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-17 12:04:42-04

BILLINGS — Tuesday wasn’t just another movie night for Babcock Theater patrons. Every cent earned from a special showing of an award-winning Ukrainian movie went to help people trapped in the war-torn country.

Marshall Strauss has been a human rights activist most of his life. And the Salem, Massachusetts, movie theater owner’s latest idea may be his best. In March 2022, Strauss decided to show a little-known 2014 movie called "The Guide". It's based on true events that took place in the 1930’s when Soviets tried to exterminate Ukrainians through starvation and other policies.

"When the project takes off, there is nothing better and this happens to be one of those projects... A lot of people wanted to help but they didn’t know how to make it a concrete gesture. So, I said let’s show a film and have a fundraiser and a lot of people immediately rallied around that idea," said Strauss, the project organizer for the Stand with Ukraine through film campaign, on Tuesday.

The movie draws a close connection to what many in Ukraine are currently experiencing, and it drew a crowd of people that night it showed in 2022. And Tuesday, it drew even more in Billings that were eager to make a difference.

"The Ukrainians, all they want to do is live free, like we are for the most part and they deserve our support. And we’re going to continue to support them. That’s the reason that we’re here," said Billings resident Sandy Selvey on Tuesday.

The film has now been showcased in over 600 locations in the US, as well as Holland, Canada and Australia.

"When they’re involved in this project, the most important thing they’re doing is they’re saying to the Ukrainian people that we have not forgotten you," added Strauss.

All of the proceeds earned from every showing go right back to various Ukraine organizations. So far, that’s over $150,000.

"It means a lot to me that people are interested, and it means a lot that people here will actually learn what’s been going on for generations. Actually, for centuries how Ukraine was oppressed by Russia," said Oxana Gamba, a Ukraine native and Billings resident, on Tuesday.

Strauss remains in contact with the film’s director and producer, who are unable to leave Ukraine.

He says they’ve relayed to him that Tuesday’s generosity and awareness doesn’t go unnoticed.

"The fact that it’s in a smaller, rural state, speaks volumes to the Ukrainians. They understand this and they sometimes ask me, 'how are you doing this?' And the answer is, Americans care. And when given the opportunity they step forward," Strauss said.