Ukrainian filmmakers call for Russian cultural boycott and allege artistic complicity


As the invasion of Ukraine continues, seven prominent Ukrainian filmmakers allege the complicity of the Russian artistic community. They are now calling for cultural sanctions against Russia.

Valentyn Vasyanovych, director (“Black Level”, “Atlantis”, “Reflection”)

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The insidious bombardment of residential areas with civilians, as well as blackmail with nuclear weapons – is a manifestation of the helpless rage of the fascist regime of Russia and the lack of chances to defeat the army and the people of Ukraine in a direct military confrontation.

The whole bloody history of Russia, as imperial, Soviet and post-Soviet, is based on the bloodthirsty attitude towards its neighbors and its people, who have never been united ethnically or culturally.

What is culture for here? To the fact that at all times Russia used cultural and artistic achievements as a cover for its aggressive actions, forming the idea that a country with great cultural achievements cannot behave like a bloodthirsty cannibal. But history has shown that it is possible. Has behaved and will behave. Finally, the whole world must understand this.

It is necessary to lower the cultural iron curtain around Russia. Stop all cultural collaboration with representatives of a terrorist country that threatens to destroy the whole world. Stop all communication with directors who continue to live in the Soviet or Soviet paradigm and promote messages poisoned by imperial ideology in the civilized world.

Roman Bondarchuk, director (“Ukrainian Sheriffs”, “Volcano”), artistic director, Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, board member of the Ukrainian Film Academy

A newsfeed is now open:

“Mariupol is under blockade: the occupiers disrupted the evacuation of the population and captured the entire city.” This is eastern Ukraine, my aunt and my family live there. They have not been contacted for several days. In the photos from the city – ruins completely on fire.

“Russia drops powerful unguided bombs on Chernihiv” – a large family of my wife lives in Chernihiv. The northern city, until the last day of peace – a sincere belief in the friendship of “brother peoples”, many families mixed with Russians and Belarusians.

“Russian troops still control the perimeter of Energodar. At night, they fired on the nuclear power plant “in the south, closer to Kherson, where I was born and where my relatives live. The city lacks food, the occupiers rob and shoot passers-by right in the streets.

Among these news, a Russian director who is against the war, against Putin, who writes that she has finished a new documentary. But she regrets that this film is unlikely to be seen now, except for her friends. The film is about another Russian director, now deceased, Balabanov, the author of the chauvinistic film “Brother”, who infected a whole generation of Russians with hatred of Ukraine. A film which expressed their need to “answer for Sevastopol”, that is to say to annex Crimea. The 1997 film “Brother” is currently being released in Russian cinemas. For my director friend, Balabanov is a genius of his time. But she is against the war. And feel no contradiction to that.

Popular Russian writer Zakhar Prilepin, a veteran of the Chechnya war, still travels across eastern Ukraine in tanks and writes in his books about how he squeezed Ukrainians’ eyes with his fingers. Famous Russian opera singer Netrebko decided it was better to end her career in Austria than to condemn Putin’s actions. The entire Russian Film Institute, VDIK, hastened to recognize the independence of the LDNR republics artificially created by Russia.

Artists who criticize Putin have shown extreme passivity. They did nothing to stop this war or to denounce it before it started. And now their attempts to sign collective letters and resent sanctions seem hypocritical.

These days, Ukrainians are defending their freedom and their right to exist. We need help. We must limit the influence of Russian culture in the world. Culture prepared the ideological basis for this war. A culture that can covertly justify Russia’s aggression. The culture that Russia knows how to use for its purposes is no worse than weapons.

After the war, when the existence of Ukraine will no longer be threatened by tanks and missiles, it will be possible to return to it, to study it, to research it and to structure it. As today, we study the films of Riefenstahl or the works of Wagner.

The only relevant manifestation of Russian culture now is the broadcast of Swan Lake, which traditionally marks a change of government in Russia.

There are so many other forward-looking cultures in the world. In particular, those who have been oppressed by Russia. Let’s turn our attention to them.

Don’t stay away. Sign the petition. Help Ukraine survive this war.

Nariman Aliev, director (“Homeward”)

Ukraine is fighting for its freedom and its right to exist. Ukraine is fighting against the Russian Federation, which has no limits to its insane imperialist appetites. They are no longer ashamed to attack a sovereign country in front of the eyes of the world, having no right or reason to do so. Russian culture has always been an instrument to legalize all crimes committed and committed by their authorities. Russian soldiers and bombs are no different from their propaganda weapons, which may not directly kill people, but justify these atrocities or divert attention and divert attention from the main thing. With the tacit consent of its compatriots, Russia is killing innocent people in Ukraine. The boycott of Russian cinema and culture is an attempt to cleanse the world of the propaganda of a terrorist state.

Maryna Er Gorbach, director (“Klondike”)

In a war without rules, applying the rules of the civilized world to the aggressor is like asking an anemic patient to become a donor. I protest against the madness of the Russian Federation, against murderous imperialism, against military aggression as a global disease. I urge you to do everything in your power to stop the bloodshed. The public stance against the Russian Federation in all areas is a noisy remedy for despotism.

Darya Bassel, Producer (“Spas,” “Outside”), Docudays UA Industry Manager

What scares me the most about the current situation is that I see that Ukrainian voices are still ignored on the international cultural scene. Many international film festivals organize special programs dedicated to Russia’s war against Ukraine and what do we see in these programs or panels? We see films made by Russian filmmakers or by foreign filmmakers. It’s the same with broadcasters. They broadcast Russian films instead of giving voice to Ukrainian filmmakers. Even these movies are produced by filmmakers who don’t support Putin and his bloody regime, still, why doesn’t the international community want to listen to Ukrainians? Even now? The same is true if you invite a man to be a spokesperson for a #MeToo movement. I say it’s time to listen to Ukrainian voices! Culture is political. It is a dangerous illusion that culture is beyond politics, that culture does not influence you and your opinions and cannot be used as a weapon. Ukrainian theaters have turned into hospitals or hostels for refugees. Ukrainian filmmakers have turned into soldiers. Ukrainian museums are bombed. It is culture and it is part of war like any other part of social life. Do you want to stop Russian aggression? You should prevent its culture from influencing your minds.

Antonio Lukich, director (“My thoughts are silent”)

My second film is my masterpiece. We’ve barely been working on it for more than two and a half years. It’s lyrical, it has great drama and even funny parts. I am proud of my film. We shot it in Kiev, Lubny and Luxembourg and we did our best. But the materials remained in Kiev. I was evacuating my children and was unable to get the film material to safety. So now we just hope they don’t get destroyed. But does it matter now? Not really… The other things matter now… As a member of the Ukrainian film community, I ask you to join the boycott of Russian films and culture.

Alina Gorlova, director (“No Obvious Signs”, “This Rain Will Never Stop”

Russia has committed a crime. Against Ukraine, against Europe, against the whole world. This crime is the collective responsibility of all citizens of the Russian Federation. Collective responsibility means collective. I call on all film festivals, all foundations, all international institutions to block the cinema of the Russian Federation. We currently have a large number of films in production, including co-productions. This war has challenged our ability to fulfill our obligations to our partners. It is unlikely that all of our films coming out this year will be released.

Instead, Russian cinema will be presented to the world. This cannot be allowed. All Russian cinema must be blocked. I emphasize the following movie lock markers:

– country of manufacture Russia
– a Russian director who has been living in Russia for two years
– a Russian director who has not publicly condemned the actions of the Russian authorities for 8 years regarding the aggression against Ukraine
– Russian director who opposed the blockade of Russian cinema

I urge you to block Russian cinema until the aggressor takes the following actions:

– complete withdrawal of Russian troops from the territory of Ukraine outside the state corridor, including the liberation of Crimea and Donbass
– payment of reparations to Ukraine for losses due to Russian military aggression against Ukraine since 2014
– the completion of the investigation into Russia’s crimes against Ukraine in The Hague.

Until Russia publicly acknowledges the falsity of its actions or is condemned under all the laws of international law, I consider inadmissible any representation and support of Russian cinema.

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