Documentary filmmaker Steve Hoover’s sophomore feature effort “Crocodile Gennadiy” is a riveting film with an equally riveting subject at its core. Gennadiy Mokhnenko is a man of the cloth, but that doesn’t stop him from going outside the law to do what he believes is right.
Pastor Gennadiy began his one-man crusade to help the homeless and drug addicted young people of his hometown of Mariupol in the Ukraine in 2000. When he tried to go through the proper channels and those efforts stalled, Gennadiy took matters into his own hands and began forcibly abducting children from the streets, bringing them to his rehab facility.
Under his roof they received a heavy dose of tough love, but his steady presence always held their attention and his guidance is unwavering. The young people aren’t just runaways, they’re drug addicts.
The film shows kids with wild, confused eyes, track marks and absolutely no future. They live in the streets, some live in the sewers, but they all share a common thread — Crocodile Gennadiy is their best shot for a normal life.
Gennadiy isn’t content with just brining them in, getting them clean from drugs and then putting them back in the world. He preaches taking care of themselves, getting an education and reversing the cycle that brought them to his doorstep in the first place. Some buy in from the start, some resist.
One of the most disturbing moments in the film is when they bring a young man into a room filled with other kids at the facility. The young man has a blood infection from injecting drugs and is in extreme pain and begging for help. Instead of getting him the treatment he needs immediately, Gennadiy asks him why he should waste his money on him instead of spending it on the good kids who are doing what’s right.
He ultimately gets him the care he needs, but not before showing the others what each of their futures could hold.
Along the way Gennadiy has adopted 32 children who have come through his door and states more than once that he would love nothing more than to find a different use for his facility if that meant the streets of his town were free from homeless children.
What is striking is the fact that while his deeds are well documented, some accuse him of lusting for power and fame by doing what he does. Even though his critics are vocal, Gennadiy doesn’t deviate from his chosen course.
Something I found interesting was the fact that the city pays for the basic utilities at his rehab because they’ve seen first-hand the impact his efforts have yielded. The mayor admits that their relationship didn’t start off that great, but he couldn’t ignore the results he saw.
The subject matter and images are at times very difficult to watch and the plight of some of the people shown is heartbreaking. Their eyes show a mix of hurt, but most of all anger at being cast aside and forgotten.
Hoover has written and directed a great documentary that is completely engrossing and wonderfully executed. The framing and shot composition is beautiful. “Crocodile Gennadiy” is one of my favorite films of 2015.