EXCLUSIVE: Ukrainian filmmakers make an open video appeal in defence of the Dovzhenko Centre
- Various directors, producers and cultural figures from the war-torn country are appealing to the international community to prevent the destruction of the unique film archive
On 17 August this year, a statement by the Dovzhenko Centre appeared online in response to the order it had received from the Ukrainian State Film Agency, dated 5 August 2022 (Order Number 100), “on the reorganisation of the state enterprise National Centre of Oleksandr Dovzhenko and the transfer of powers to the state institution the National Center of Cinematography of Ukraine”.
According to this order, all films from the Dovzhenko Centre’s collection had to be transferred to the state institution Science Centre of Cinematography of Ukraine. In its statement, the Ukrainian State Film Agency emphasises the fact that the order does not envisage the liquidation of the Dovzhenko Centre, merely the reorganisation of it. In particular, this is to be achieved “by separating and transferring the authority to archive sets of source materials of films created in whole or in part at the expense of the state budget of Ukraine, as well as copies of films created in Ukraine at the expense of legal entities of private ownership and natural persons, to the state institution Scientific Centre of Cinematography of Ukraine”.
A petition containing 25,000 signatures has been passed around in support of the Dovzhenko Centre, and Ukrainian and international filmmakers and institutions are also making their own statements. The main message is to prevent the “reorganisation” of the Dovzhenko Centre, which, according to the scenario set out by the Ukrainian State Film Agency, involves separating the centre from the collection that forms its core, transferring it through some opaque procedure and disbanding an integral institution that has been popularising Ukrainian cinema within the state and abroad for many years. The State Film Agency, which the Dovzhenko Centre is now subordinate to, is standing its ground and highlighting the centre’s lack of profitability and the need to “optimise” it.
The bottom line is that, in fact, the Dovzhenko Centre may be destroyed, and its employees, comprising top-notch professionals, may be fired. A letter has been penned by the Association des Cinémathèques Européennes’ committee for the defence of the Dovzhenko Centre, and the Polish Film Academy has published its own missive as well. The head of the State Film Agency, Marina Kuderchuk, declined to comment on the matter during the Ukrainian Days discussion at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year, which was seen as scandalous by some. She said at the time: “It is not appropriate to discuss this question within these walls.”
Well-known Ukrainian director Iryna Tsilyk (Rock.Paper.Grenade [+see also:
film profile]) said: “During the active phase of the war, the last thing we want is to have any additional ‘wars’ in the field of culture. But at the moment, the fate of one of the brightest cultural institutions in Ukraine, the Dovzhenko Centre, as well as the unique film archive of Ukraine, is under threat. The Ukrainian film community demands a transparent dialogue with the authorities that are responsible for these important decisions. But at the moment, the situation is still unstable and unclear. Thus, we’ll keep fighting for our heritage. Bitter experience says that it is impossible to build the future without having sufficient respect for the past. Archives and important cultural institutions should be in safe hands – we need to have confidence in this.”
Ukrainian director Roman Bondarchuk (Volcano [+see also:
interview: Roman Bondarchuk
film profile]) said: “I am a member of the National Union of Cinematographers, a member of the board of the Ukrainian Film Academy, a member of the Ukrainian Oscar Committee and the artistic director of Docudays UA. I am an interested party in the history of the Dovzhenko Centre because the copies of my films and the copies of films by directors of my generation are stored there. These are films that cannot be moved anywhere, because transportation and improper storage could potentially damage them. We are not going to let anyone move them from there. In order to reform film institutions, security forces do not come to steal things; they do not break up peaceful protests with reports of alleged mining. This is how they are proceeding, carrying out a state institution’s raids on an attractive piece of land that a developer has already set his sights on.”
Valentyn Vasyanovych (Atlantis [+see also:
interview: Valentyn Vasyanovych
film profile], Reflection [+see also:
interview: Valentyn Vasyanovych
film profile]) adds: “Unfortunately, the appeals of the trade unions, the appeals of the Film Academy and the petitions have had no influence on the authorities, and they continue to destroy the Dovzhenko Centre. The only thing we can do at this time is to be physically on the territory of this institution and document all of the current actions being taken by the law enforcement agencies. This is the only way we can protect this space, and that way, this situation will gain maximum publicity.”
Maksym Nakonechnyi (Butterfly Vision [+see also:
interview: Maksym Nakonechnyi
film profile]) said: “In my opinion, the leadership of the State Film Agency has purposefully monopolised the film industry, after being appointed in a dubious manner. And the Dovzhenko Centre was the most successful, the most effective and the most visible institution, both in Ukraine and abroad. But now, under the pretext of this so-called ‘reorganisation’, a liquidation of the Dovzhenko Centre is actually being carried out because the future fate of the collection, its preservation, the reasons for these steps, and the mission and strategy of the so-called improvement have not been communicated or presented to anyone. In my opinion, this indicates completely different motives behind these processes – namely, obtaining benefits from the possibility of disposing of the tangible and intangible assets of the Dovzhenko Centre.”
The Dovzhenko Centre is the largest film archive in Ukraine, which stores more than 9,000 titles, encompassing fiction, documentary and animated Ukrainian and foreign films, and thousands of archival documents on the history of Ukrainian cinema. Founded in 1994 on the premises of the largest Ukrainian film-duplicating factory in the USSR (founded in 1938), the Dovzhenko Centre is today one of the most dynamic cultural institutions in Ukraine, with a healthy international reputation in the film industry. The Dovzhenko Centre combines modern film storage with a climate-control system, the only film-copying laboratory in Ukraine, a film museum, a media library and its own publishing house, and carries out the preservation, popularisation, research and distribution of national film heritage in Ukraine and abroad.
Watch the Ukrainian filmmakers’ video appeal below:
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