OF 39

FEBRUARY 1, 2023


OF 48

Produced by Simon Lereng Wilmont and Monica Hellström

In “A House Made of Splinters,” which takes place in eastern Ukraine (Lysychansk), there’s no talk about the war, at least not the one with bombs and gunfire. Violence and addiction inside the home lead the subjects of this documentary to a facility meant to house children taken out of bad situations. Either the parents get their act together (some don’t even show up to visit their children), or the kids get sent outside the facility to foster care or a state orphanage.

Filmmaker Simon Lereng Wilmont focuses on a small group of children whose ages are never specified but can’t be more than ten years old, some as young as 3. They form connections with their peers, as well as the staff of the facility, who hunch over their desks, phoning anyone that can give these kids a better life.

Kolya is one of the oldest boys at the facility, roaming the halls with arms filled with fake ink tattoos. He sneaks outside to smoke a cigarette with a friend and gets teary-eyed on the phone when talking to his alcoholic mother. The police visit to warn him he’ll go to jail if he keeps stealing, but he smiles or rolls his eyes at the camera. Yet, when all his friends get sent to the state orphanage, you see his kindness flourish for his younger siblings, and it’s heartbreaking when they face losing that connection.

Eva, Sasha, and Alina split the rest of the focus. There’s hope in the tragedy (“hope dies last” is uttered by one of the staff) as these girls face placement in homes that want them. Sasha and Alina form a bond, but you get glimpses of the damage already done by their failed parents. You see them get to be kids, cartwheeling down the hall, playing in a silhouetted curtain, but you also see them playing rough with each other and talking about how they’ve both tried alcohol. At one point, the kids share “scary stories,” but instead of the ones you’re accustomed to, they share what they’ve witnessed in their homes. One boy describes seeing his drunken father stab his mother with a knife. There’s a heartbreaking realization when Sasha faces foster care, where she plainly states that her mom doesn’t want her, and she does want a foster parent.

It’s impossible not to feel for these kids. None of them asked to be in this situation. You feel anger toward the parents. Why aren’t they trying everything to get their kids back? Why aren’t they even visiting or answering phone calls? While some of these wards will find homes where people love them, others will face a world that rips them from everything that’s supposed to make them feel safe. One of the most challenging pills to swallow comes from a story one staff tells of the vicious cycle. A girl passes through the facility and grows up to have her child taken to the same facility. When she visits her child, she asks if the staff remembers her, to which they respond, “unfortunately yes.”


Simon Lereng Wilmont

First-time nominee

Monica Hellström

94th Academy Awards (2021)Best Animated Feature Film“Flee”Nominee
Best Documentary Feature“Flee”Nominee

Children and staff in a special kind of home: an institution for children who have been removed from their homes while awaiting court custody decisions. Staff do their best to make the time children have there safe and supportive.

Directed by Simon Lereng Wilmont
Final Cut for Real
January 23, 2022
87 minutes


Cinema Eye Honors Awards — Outstanding Production (Nominee)
Cinema Eye Honors Awards — Outstanding Cinematography (Nominee)
European Film Awards — European Documentary (Nominee)
Sundance Film Festival — World Cinema – Documentary/Directing Award [Winner]
Sundance Film Festival — World Cinema – Documentary/Grand Jury Prize (Nominee)


1. “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”
2. “Fire of Love”
3. “Navalny”
4. “All That Breathes”
5. “A House Made of Splinters”


1. “Navalny”
2. “Fire of Love”
3. “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed”
4. “All That Breathes”
5. “A House Made of Splinters”

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