Born and raised in Belarus, Darya Zhuk moved to the United States when she was only 16 years old. There, she pursued a degree in economics at Harvard University, but somewhere along the way the young woman discovered filmmaking and took a different turn. Having obtained an honours graduate of Columbia University MFA program in Directing, Darya has since directed multiple short films that have been selected to SXSW, Tarkovsky, Oaxaca, Atlanta, Palm Springs, Koroche, Santa Fe Independent film festivals to name a few.
In 2015, she won the best female writer-director award from New York Women in Film and Television for her work on The Real American, as well as the best short at the oldest film festival in Belarus, Listapad; What Doesn’t Kill You won the best short at Boston Jewish Film Festival. In 2014, she directed a half-hour comedy pilot for the Russian cable network TNT called Filfak, which has been greenlit for production. Although light-hearted and often comedic, Darya’s films seem to carry a sense of redefinition of the female image on screen. With an impressive palette of diversity, the director’s work strives to challenge and demystify the female experience and sexuality on screen.
Darya’s new film, Crystal Swan, is one of the titles we are anticipating most this year, and you should be too. Set a few years after Belarus gained independence in 1990, and follows the story of a young woman who dreams of moving to Chicago where she could pursue her passion for house music. Obtaining a US visa, however, proves a difficult endeavour and, determined to flee the country, the young woman takes the risk of buying a letter of employment from the black market. Depicting a time of a nation hopefully anticipating a brighter future, Crystal Swan is a story about the coming of age of a woman and her country, where feelings of self and belonging are yet to be defined.