Russian films behind the scenes. “How can I protest when I’m in prison? I have children”

  • The world of Russian filmmakers changed markedly at the end of February. Then the Ukrainian Film Academy called for a boycott of Russian films
  • Film festivals have responded differently to this call. Some allow the participation of Russians who opposed the war and the decisions of the Kremlin
  • Some of the decisions are completely silly. A German studio has removed the film from the program because the actor playing the lead role is a Russian
  • You can follow information on the defense of Ukraine 24 hours a day on our website direct relationships
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For Russian filmmakers, the sudden change came after the Ukrainian Film Academy published a petition on calling for a complete boycott of the Russian film industry in late February. “The Council of Europe should exclude Russia from the Euromag financing programme,” the petition said. “Festivals should no longer show films from the Russian Federation. Producers should suspend all contracts and not grant film rights to Russian distributors, and Western distributors should no longer show or incorporate Russian films into their programming.”

The Russian film industry fell silent immediately. “We cannot comment on that.” “We are sorry, but we will not participate in the programme.” Please read the official announcements about the situation.” These were responses to private messages and official inquiries. Nobody wanted to be mentioned by name.

The Cannes Film Festival also took a stand on the war in Ukraine and banned official Russian delegations from participating in its 75th edition in May this year. However, while the festival “does not approve of the existence of people associated with the Russian government,” it still welcomes individual filmmakers “who speak out to denounce violence, oppression and injustice, with the primary aim of defending peace and freedom.”

The Venice Film Festival later supported the Cannes Film Festival initiative, but stated that it had no intention of declaring a complete boycott: “The Biennale stands in solidarity with all those who are boldly opposed to war in Russia.” “For those who oppose the current Russian system, there will always be a place in the exhibitions of the Biennale, from art to architecture, and in its festivals, from cinema to dance, and from music to theater,” the festival explained.

For many filmmakers, this is impossible to achieve. “How can I protest when I face imprisonment? I have children to raise,” the head of a Russian production company, who asked not to be named, told the Moscow Times.

The GoEast Film Festival, which focuses on cinema in Central and Eastern Europe, has introduced changes after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. “From 2014” – wrote GoEast President, Heleen Gerritsen – “We definitely stand with Ukraine. Since then we have not invited any official Russian delegations or supporters of the Russian occupation policy in Crimea and Donbass … We still invite Russian individuals and Ukraine. Films Belarusian, but this year we broke off relations with Russian media partners, sponsors and government organizations. ”

After the Berlin-based European Film Academy (EFA) was criticized for “too lenient statements” directed at Russian filmmakers, it took a more radical stance and announced its intention to fully support all boycott demands in the Ukrainian Academy’s film petition, which supposedly excludes Russian cinema of all festivals. Therefore, Russian films will not participate in this year’s European Film Awards.

The Berlinale took a similar position, declaring that it would prevent Russian institutions, official delegations and “regime supporters” from participating in the Berlin Festival “as long as the Russian government is at war with Ukraine.” However, it was not agreed to ban Russian filmmakers, arguing that such a measure “would stifle many critical voices.”

It may seem like an attempt to compromise, but it changes nothing in most Russian projects. The Ministry of Culture of Russia often supports not only large commercial films, but also independent art projects. Even if producers are trying to attract private investors, it is often impossible to completely cut off state investment.

But even private investments are difficult for Russian filmmakers to make. For example, the $100 million Kinoprime Foundation, funded by Roman Abramovich, was hailed as a milestone in the Russian film industry when it launched in Cannes in 2019. It helped fund ambitious art films such as the director’s “The Rush” Kerio Serebrenkov. Today, however, Western countries also impose sanctions on this source of funding.

Booth No. 6, which won the grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year, has been removed from the program of German film company CineStar because Yuri Borisov’s starring is Russian. Director Juho Kosmanen is Finnish, and the film was jointly produced by German, Russian and Finnish companies. The actors and all the producers, including the Russian one, spoke unequivocally against the war.

Jacob Kegas, CEO of a German film distribution company, and Jamila Winske, director of one of the production companies, Achtung Panda! They were shocked by this decision. Wenske and Kijas said the film about Finka and Rossi who meet on a long train journey is “an example of a common idea, both in the production process and in the technical message”. The film also tells the story of “the power and magic that can arise when people meet and get to know each other and have the courage to engage and listen to each other.”

They did not miss the irony about the imposition of sanctions on this particular film. “We condemn the Russian aggression against Ukraine…but we believe in the link between culture and cinema. Culture builds bridges and creates spaces of communication where others want to destroy it,” they said.


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