Deemed “”anti-Soviet” and thus unshowable, Yuri Ilyenko’s Ukrainian “”film parable” languished in the vault gulag for over 20 years. This bold avant-garde work, which eschews social realism for a more opaque lyricism, undoubtedly perplexed official censors. Ostensibly, A Spring for the Thirsty tells the story of an old man living beside a well at the edge of a desert. The years have left him grizzled and bitter, alone with only photographs and memories of the family, friends, and strangers whose thirst was quenched beside his well. Through his eyes an austere chronicle of a rural people is revealed. Ilyenko is known to audiences in the West for his direction of A White Bird With a Black Spot and his cinematography in Sergei Parajadnov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors. In this collaboration with celebrated poet Ivan Dratch, Ilyenko continues in a vein immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with that Ukrainian master, Dovzhenko. Spring‘s sensibility is that of a poem that refracts its narrative and emotional mood into a succession of frequently disparate images and sounds. Children riding the wings of a windmill. Soldiers marching. A woman crying. People dancing. The old man carrying a fruit-laden tree. If Spring is a poem, it is also a landscape where startlingly contrasted and overexposed black-and-white images bleed across the frame. The sound track’s percussive assemblage of natural sound and sparse dialogue echoes across this starkly surreal terrain of collective memory—birth, death, laughter, loss—the material of homeland. Much more than the story of one man, this stunning first feature expresses a spiritual reverie of the Ukrainian people.