Russian filmmakers and other artists boycott in Ukraine

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Russian filmmakers and other artists boycott in Ukraine

Russian filmmaker Kirill Sokolov has spent the past week distraught by the horrors unfolding in Ukraine. Half of his family is Ukrainian, he said in a telephone interview, and as a child he spent summers there living with his grandparents.

His maternal grandmother was still living in Kyiv, he said, “hiding from the bombs in a bunker.”

Since Russia’s invasion began, Mr Sokolov said he had signed two online petitions calling for an end to the war, an act that carries risks in Russia, where thousands of people have been arrested for protesting the conflict. and some have reportedly lost their jobs.

Yet despite his anti-war stance, Mr Sokolov learned on Monday that the Glasgow Film Festival in Scotland had pulled down his latest film, “No Looking Back”.

A spokesman for the festival said in an email that Mr Sokolov’s film – a comedy about a mother and daughter trying to kill each other – had received funding from the Russian state. The decision to drop the film was not a reflection on the filmmaker himself, she said, but “it would be unfair to proceed with the screening as normal while the attack on the Ukrainian people continues.”

As the war in Ukraine enters its second week, cultural institutions around the world are grappling with the question of whether to boycott Russian artists, reminiscent of those around South Africa during the apartheid era, and There are calls by musicians, writers and artists to do away with Israel. support of the Palestinian people.

Festival organizers and film officials have been considering protest actions in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion last week, when the Ukrainian Film Academy launched an online petition “for a boycott of Russian cinematography”.

The petition, with more than 8,200 signatures on Friday, said screening of Russian films at festivals creates “the illusion of Russia’s participation in the values ​​of a civilized world”. It also urged distributors not to operate in Russia. Several Hollywood studios, including Disney, have halted releases there, and a Netflix spokesperson said Friday that the streaming service had halted all future projects in Russia, including acquisitions.

Russian director Mr Sokolov said he accepted the decision of the Glasgow festival, although he found it “really strange”. Many Russian filmmakers are critical of Russian society and politics, he said; If festivals outside Russia stop showing their work, “it’s as if they have turned off our voices,” he said.

“Probably 99 percent of Russian films” receive funding from the Russian state, Mr. Sokolov said. “It is very difficult to make a film here without government sponsorship.” It also includes many that have been on-screen – or even unveiled – critiques of life under Mr. Putin.

Several smaller film festivals have acted on the call of the Ukraine Film Academy, including the Black Knights Film Festival in Estonia and the Vilnius International Film Festival in Lithuania, which on Monday removed five films from their schedules. One of them is the award-winning “Compartment No. 6” by Finnish director Juho Kuosmann, which also received Russian funding. Mr Kuosmann said in a telephone interview that he acknowledged the state’s investment in his film on Russia to ease bureaucratic difficulties. He understood the festival’s decision, and said he was “happy if my film can be used in this fight.”

The world’s biggest film festivals are behaving in a different way. On Tuesday, the Cannes Film Festival in France said in a statement that it would no longer “welcome official Russian delegations, nor accept the presence of anyone associated with the Russian government.” This would mean that Russia’s film agency may no longer have a pavilion to host parties and receptions. A Cannes spokeswoman said in an email that this would not mean a ban on Russian filmmakers.

On Wednesday, the Venice Film Festival said it would not accept “persons bound in any capacity from the Russian government” at its events. It said it would welcome “those who oppose the current regime in Russia”.

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Jane Duncan, an academic at the University of Johannesburg who has written about cultural exclusion as agents of political change, said those actions can be “extremely successful” if there are clear rules around their goals. He said the cultural boycott of South Africa, first called for by activists in 1958, was initially a complete ban on foreign artists working in the country and on arts institutions abroad hosting South Africa. But later, he said, activists realized these terms were hurting South African artists, who were already subject to censorship.

The boycott was softened in the late 1980s, so that artists could tour abroad and spread the message of the evils of apartheid. But, Duncan said, “the difficulty of selective cultural exclusion is, ‘Who makes the decisions?'”

Although the Ukrainian petition that started the debate was clear, Ukraine’s film industry is still divided over whether Russian films should be banned. Respected Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa, whose film “Donbass” about Ukraine’s war with Russia in the country’s east was played at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, said in an email: “We can’t judge people by their passports “

“When I hear calls for a ban on Russian films, I think of my Russian friends – decent and respectable people,” he said. “They are also victims of this war, just as we are.”

Yet for others in the industry, that line is no more. Vilnius International Film Festival director Algirdas Ramaska ​​said any film involving Russia-based companies would indirectly raise money for the war in Ukraine through taxation. He said “total isolation” would pit more Russian people against his government.

Mr Ramaska ​​said he wanted to continue to support Russian filmmakers, but how to do so in this environment was “a really difficult question.”

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