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An older generation of Ukrainian filmmakers speaks from the front


- Directors, actors, festival directors and critics send open letters to the international community about the Russian invasion of Ukraine

An older generation of Ukrainian filmmakers speaks from the front
(clockwise from top left) Ada Rogovtseva, Lubomir Hosejko, Mykhailo Iliienko, Serhiy Bukovsky, Volodymyr Voitenko, Roman Balayan and Andriy Khalpakhchi

After the youngest generation of Ukrainian filmmakers spoke against the Russian invasion of Ukraine (read here), directors, actors, festival directors and critics from an older generation are now sending open letters to the international community.

(This is part of a series of open letters about the war that we are receiving from Ukrainian talent - read all of them here).

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Their letters:

Ada Rogovtseva
Ukrainian actress (born 1937), took part in more than 100 films and TV series (Eternal Call, Taras Bulba). Professor at the National University of Culture. Ada is 84 years old – a legend of Ukrainian acting.

"I volunteer at home. The guys come to take shower, wash their clothes. I give them clean linen. They bring wet socks in a bag, so I give them these clean socks with such joy. I feed them. While I had something, I cooked my own. And now they bring me products: the soup is served, porridge, potatoes, everything is ready. Dumplings were handed over today. I make sure that when they enter the house, it was both clean and full of food.

It's scary when you do nothing. When you sit in the basement at night, it's unpleasant. And when you do something all day, it's not scary. And time goes by very fast. I am proud that the people who are on the front line are just like that. The people who are suffering right now are like that. They are courageous, wonderful people. My grandson and son-in-law are in volunteer units, they fight, they protect. My daughter and daughter-in-law, are volunteers. They organized a very serious volunteer point. There they are, sisters and mothers, for the soldiers. The fighters love them.

I was born an optimist. But in recent years, some other qualities have arisen. I started to hate. And I really hate killers. I hate people who raise their hand against a children's hospital, raise a machine gun against a child, a helpless woman, and my hero. On the 18th of this month, I was supposed to play in Kharkiv theatre. There's nowhere to play now, for a while. And the boy with whom I was supposed to play in the play was killed. He is a bright, clean, young man. He was. It's like burying a son. I know what pain is.

I consider the screening of Russian films at film festivals now completely unacceptable. This country sows death, not "reasonable, good, eternal."

Serhiy Bukovsky
Documentary film director (Spell Your Name, produced by Steven Spielberg)

“Our village is near the town of Vasylkiv, near which fierce fighting is taking place. It was here on the first day of the war, February 24, that we heard explosions at 5 am... And then an oil depot exploded... nothing can be seen, black smoke is everywhere. We took our two dogs, food for them, and left. For 2 days we were sheltered by the participants of our workshop, and then we went through Romania to Bulgaria, to our friends. Now I’m in Sofia. All hard drives with movies, materials stay at home. Thank goodness, our producer downloaded all the material for the new work I just started editing. Now we are thinking about how to continue the work that is extremely important for the present time...

I am Ukrainian film director Serhiy Bukovsky. I am Russian by birth, born in Bashkiria. My mother—film actress Nina Antonova, People's Artist of Ukraine—is also from Russia. As is my father, film director Anatoly Bukovsky, who is from Balashov. All my life I have lived in Kyiv; it is my hometown. Ukraine is my Motherland.

I don't care how Putin departs from this world, whether it’s by a shot to the head or strangulation by a scarf. One way or another, the end is near.

But I do care—actually I am terrified—that my cousins from Moscow sent a cheerful computer postcard to wish my mother and my wife a happy International Women’s Day on March 8, with the wishes of a peaceful sky above our heads. They, like millions of other citizens of the Russian Federation, have been brainwashed—or perhaps I should say their brains have been completely washed out.

Billions of Putin's dollars have been purposefully spent to do this. And the Russian cultural sphere was engaged in this work, including the cinema—"the most important of all arts," according to Lenin.

I know for certain that beginning in 2014, the Russian Federation has produced films focusing on the Russian troops—the heroes—coming to liberate the people of Crimea and Donbass from Ukrainian nationalists. Film actor Mikhail Porechenkov personally came to support the Russian army in the artificially created Lugansk People’s Republic/Donetsk People’s Republic and even practiced shooting a gun at the same time. 14 years ago, my film crew and I created the film The Living about the Ukrainian famine —Holodomor— of 1932–33, the genocide of the Ukrainian people committed by Russia with silent support of the majority of its people. In our extensive research, we discovered that the embassies of foreign countries informed their governments about what was happening in Ukraine. Evidence includes excerpts from the documents heard in our film in their original languages: Italian, French, Polish.

Welsh journalist Gareth Jones paid with his life for telling Europe and America about this atrocity. But nobody wanted to hear it. During that time, Bernard Shaw visited the USSR. In the 1950s, Paul Robeson came to perform for Soviet youth. In more recent years, Sharon Stone was photographed with Putin. In 2017, Oliver Stone interviewed Putin for his film Know Your Enemy. Is this not in support of Russian culture?"

Volodymyr Voitenko
Chairman of the Board of the Union of Film Critics of Ukraine. After several days of bombing Kyiv and air raids, but determined to remain in the Ukraine: Volodymyr Voitenko evacuated his family from Kyiv to a village near the Ukrainian city Zhуtomyr.

"In the spring of 2014, when Russia had already invaded Crimea and dealt with the Luhansk and Donetsk people and lands, my cinematographic colleagues - actors, producers, directors - fought desperately: But who could have imagined such a thing ?! I had to answer: I never doubted it; and you know the Ukrainian history of recent centuries - always the same, blood and tears.

Yes, there was no doubt, but to become a direct victim of the expected aggression is unbearable and hopeless.

Along these lines, I try to bypass emotions.

Except for one, Russian films, for all their artistic virtues, are in one way or another an imperial weapon of the "Russian world" and should be removed from showing on all world platforms - cinemas, streaming, festivals, and any other. This will be true disarmament of the bloody, agonizing Russian empire.

We have in our hearts that which does not die…"

Andriy Khalpakhchi
Director of the Molodist Kyiv International Film Festival. Andriy Khalpakhchi remains firmly in Kyiv.

"I fully support the complete boycott of Russian cinema, regardless of the civic position of some directors. Recently a prominent Russian critic wrote a very good piece about the collective responsibility of Russian intelligentsia, including filmmakers. And collective responsibility entails collective retribution. I have great respect for filmmakers like Aleksandr Sokurov, Andrey Zvyagintsev, and many others whose lonely voices spoke against Russian propaganda. But sadly they weren't enough, and today the world observes the great tragedy of the Ukrainian nation. In recent years, the Molodist festival declined any Russian films from its program. At last year's Cannes festival, I didn't shake the hand of my old friend, director of the Moscow Film Festival Kirill Razlogov at the festival directors' dinner. I felt remorse after his death, but today I'm convinced that his participation in organising a film festival in Crimea and silent support of Putin's policies contributed to what is happening now. And the blood of killed children in Ukraine is on his conscience as well, the only way to change the fascist regime of Putin's Russia is complete isolation of Russian society, Russian culture and sports. If Russia calls the bloody war in Ukraine that leads to the genocide of Ukrainians, a special operation, I'll allow myself to be ironic: these are not sanctions against Russian filmmakers, this is a surgical treatment to save Russian cinema. That's why again I call for a complete boycott of Russian film."

Mykhailo Iliienko
Ukrainian film director, writer and actor (Fuzhou, 1993; Firecrosser, 2011). Professor at State University for Theatre, Film and TV named by Ivan Karpenko-Kary. Iliienko has just been evacuated to the Czech Republic.

"As disgusting as it may seem, it is Russian culture and the Russian language that have always been the leading detachment of gentle intrusion into the soul, into everyday life, into the language of communication through masterpieces of Russian literature, poetry, and cinema…

Russia has always been able to embrace geniuses. Let's remember the Ukrainian Mykola Gogol. Geniuses wanted to write, draw, sing - create. Earn. And Russia has always needed aphorisms about itself - ingenious formulas of national uniqueness, mystery, invincibility… Once in the subway I heard from a salesman of sparklers: geniuses are not very expensive for the empire, at least cheaper than wine with neighbors. Russia has always sold sparklers of excellent quality. They burn brightly, remain in the memory, light the way to the Russian language, Russian myths about national uniqueness, mystery, invincibility… And then it sounds: "Russia is where the Russian language is!"

And the war begins. Boycott is a sober response to this strategy. Boycott a gentle invasion and, at the same time, the development of their own culture. We are 30 years late."

Roman Balayan
Ukrainian director (Flights in Dreams and Reality, 1982; Guard me My Talisman, 1986). Roman Balayan is a student of Sergei Paradjanov. He remains in Ukraine - evacuated from Kyiv, currently located on the border of Hungary and Ukraine.

"t would be at least strange, after the inhuman, fascist actions of Russia in Ukraine, starting from February 24, 2022, if international film festivals allow Russian films to participate in their programs this year."

Lubomir Hosejko
Ukrainian film critic, author of History of Ukrainian Cinema. He has moved to France.

"Ukrainian directors have called for a boycott of Russian cinema, and this has not gone unnoticed by the French press. However, while the Cannes Film Festival has so far contented itself with declaring that it will reject official Russian delegations, not all festivals in France dedicated to Russian cinema agree to boycott screenings of Russian films. The Les Reflets du cinéma festival in May, which will take place from March 18 to 27 in Le Mans, will be dedicated to Black Sea cinema, which will feature both Ukrainian and Russian films. The management of this cultural event assures that there will be no boycotts of feature and short films by Russian directors. The most famous Russian film festival in Honfleur will not take place. Announcements of the Russian Film Festivals in Montpellier and Bordeaux are still ahead.

Together with Ukrainian directors, I call for a boycott of Russian cinema at all film events in France and Europe."

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