How the European film industry supports Ukraine in the culture war with Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s impassioned speech at the opening ceremony of the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday reminded the international film industry not to ignore or forget the war raging on Europe’s eastern borders. .

“Your opinion matters and your voice matters,” Zelensky said in his taped video, calling on the film industry to “speak about this war in the clearest language possible: the language of cinema, the language you all speak.” .

More than six months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, news of the war began to hit the headlines, which Zelensky emphasized in his speech, noting the danger that those killed in the conflict could fall into ” unconsciousness and darkness”.

But in the months since the February 24 invasion, the global film industry has come together to uphold and sustain Ukraine’s beleaguered film industry, funding, distributing and showcasing Ukrainian cinema and the people who make it.

Initiatives like the $20 million Ukrainian Content Club will see global giants like Netflix and the BBC pre-purchase or co-produce Ukrainian content. The Ukrainian Film Academy and the House of Europe, an organization funded by the European Union and created to foster cultural exchanges between Ukrainians and their EU colleagues, have launched a program to provide grants from script development of up to $15,000 to writers and producers to develop film and television pitches. . for the international market. House of Europe and Netflix launched a separate stipend program to provide filmmaking, post-production and pitching training to 100 Ukrainian creators.

Major international film festivals have emphasized Ukrainian productions and set up programs to connect local filmmakers with financiers, co-producers and sales companies outside the country.
On September 8, Venice will host a Ukrainian Day showcasing a series of such initiatives set up under the auspices of the Venice Production Bridge Industrial section of the festival.

“The most important thing at the moment is funding, because the Ukrainian TV and cinema market, and the Ukrainian economy, were very badly affected by the war and will be in a bad state for a long time,” says Daria Leygonie-Fialko, one of the producers who, shortly after the Russian invasion, co-founded the Ukrainian film and television collective Organization of Ukrainian Producers (OUP), to document the Russian invasion and its impact on Ukraine.

A few weeks before the Venice Film Festival, Autentic, the non-fiction division of German independent powerhouse Beta Film, snagged the international distribution rights to the documentaries produced by OUP. Mariupol. Hope not lost and 9 lives. Hope not lostbased on the diaries of local journalist Nadia Sukhorukova, shows the war through the eyes of local people who experienced the first month of the invasion in Mariupol. 9 lives follows the volunteers who risked their lives to rescue animals from abandoned areas following the Russian attack.

“The main mission of our organization is to help Ukraine in this war by showing the world, the international public, what is happening in Ukraine, to give a transparent and fair image to counter Russian propaganda”, says Igor Storchak , one of the founders of OUP. . .

Beta Film has been particularly active in supporting Ukrainian productions since the war, recently resuming Ukrainian historical series Cardamom coffee for global market and sale The silencea Croatian-Ukrainian co-production, at HBO Europe and ZDF in Germany.

“The Ukrainian people are not only setting a heroic example to the world, but I believe they will also inspire a desire for more heroic stories.” Beta director Jan Mojto told a crowd of international buyers at this year’s MIPTV TV market in Cannes in April.

European funding bodies are notoriously rigid in their regulations, but European producers have found creative ways to use regulatory loopholes to shift support to Ukrainian productions. The Polish Film Fund allows 20% of its grants to be spent outside Poland, funding that can be spent on Ukrainian filmmakers. In Luxembourg, the figure is 40%. The French CNC has started accepting funding applications submitted by French producers with Ukrainian writers on board. And the Belgian tax shelter is used to set up co-productions with Ukrainian creators.

by Antonio Lukich Luxemburg, Luxemburgwhich will screen in competition in the Horizons section of Venice this year, and which Celluloid Dreams sells worldwide, has secured post-production support from the Gothenburg Film Festival in Sweden.

‘Luxembourg Luxembourg’ is one of three Ukrainian films screened in Venice this year.

Courtesy of TIFF

Lukich is currently one of four Ukrainian directors visiting Gothenburg for a three-month residency. The festival, with support from the Swedish Institute and the Swedish Postcode Foundation, announced a new program on Thursday that will provide grants of $7,100 (SEK 75,000) to Ukrainian filmmakers to develop their next projects.

“That kind of support is super, super important, and it’s a great honor to even be mentioned in the same breath with some of these organizations,” says Lukich, proudly showing off his Gothenburg Festival hoodie. “There are obviously more important things that Ukraine needs to spend its money on right now than movies, things like weapons and medicine. So it’s really important that we have those islands of support that can help the survival of Ukrainian culture.

Luxemburg, Luxemburga personal drama about twin brothers and their relationship with their absent father, set long before the war and has nothing to do with the current conflict.

“I think fiction is probably not the way to go right now for Ukrainian filmmakers, both because it’s very expensive and because the reality in Ukraine seems to make documentaries more urgent,” says Lukich. .

Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa

VALERY HACHE_AFP via Getty Images

Indeed, the two other Ukrainian films screened in Venice are not fiction: that of Evgeny Afineevsky Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s fight for freedom and The kyiv trial by the famous Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa (Bab Yar. The context, Donbass). Both are selected out of competition. The first deals directly with the current conflict. The latter is a look at the kyiv trial, the 1946 show trial and the public execution of German war criminals in Ukraine by the Soviet Union. Whereas The kyiv trial was planned long before the February 24 invasion, Loznitsa notes the “shocking” parallels with today.

“The same things, the same crimes are being committed now, in the same places in Ukraine,” Loznitsa says. “The circumstances of the current war are very similar to what we see and hear in this film.”

Loznitsa is currently filming a documentary about the current conflict, tentatively titled the invasionthe premiere of which is scheduled for next year.

“I’m interested in the impact of war and its transformation on Ukrainian society,” he says, “and also how war crimes committed in Ukraine are investigated. Will it really be possible to bring the perpetrators to justice?

For Ukrainian directors, the struggle to continue producing and releasing films is primarily about the struggle to preserve Ukrainian national identity amid Russian attempts to sow cultural and military destruction in their country.

“We are at war because we want to be an independent country, but it is also a question of culture and language,” said director Maryna Er Gorbach (Klondike) at Sarajevo’s CineLink Sarajevo Film Festival industry event earlier this month. “We want to be Ukrainians. Culture is the reason we had this war… And to do that [to make culture] we need money!”

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