We've been shooting since last summer. We heavily depend on the progress of the case (the hearing of which was postponed twice). The hearing in April is supposed to make it a little more clea what the conclusion of the story will be, and we dare to hope that it will be Oleg's release. But Russian justice always bring you new surprises, so we do not rely on the court's decisions. We hope that in one way or another we'll start postproduction in June and wrap up this fall.
Our documentary is an attempt to look into an investigation - the case of film director Oleg Sentsov, arrested by the Russian security service at his home, in the Russian-occupied Crimea, for his pro-Ukrainian sentiments. But it's not only a political-themed inquiry into the injustice in contemporary Russia. This is an absurd and frightening Kafka-esque story about how anyone can become a victim of the soulless state machine. We will try to draw a portrait of Oleg - and the colossus he is opposing. Shooting our film, with the help of the European Film Academy, we also record and post interviews with world celebrities in Sentsov's support. They screened at the DocuDays UA Human Rights Film Festival in Kyiv and will be shown at the event of the OpenDocs Festival in London and goEast Film Festival in Wiesbaden. We hope that these videos, as well as the finished film, will contribute to the worldwide campaign and help him to eventually get back to freedom. Sometimes you don't have the choice to stay quiet.
We need your word and help to finish the film and bring it to the world.
Olga Zhurzhenko, producer (Ukraine)
Olga has been working as an independent producer since 2009. In 2011 she founded the company UKRKINO, aiming to pursue her own production strategy. She produced several feature films, including GAAMER by Oleg Sentsov (2011, IFF Rotterdam, Listapad Minsk IFF, Odessa IFF, São Paulo IFF), four shorts and one documentary. Her recent film, TRUMPETER (2014), screened at Film Festival Cottbus, Molodist Kyiv IFF, Kinoshock IFF in Anapa, Russia. Olga's upcoming project RHINO by Oleg Sentsov has been put on hold as a result of Oleg's arrest.
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Our team brought together Russian director Askold Kurov, one of the authors of the Russian documentary "Winter, Go Away!" (2012) about anti-Putin protests in Moscow, the director of the films "Leninland" (2013), a tribute to Moscow's last supporters of the Lenin cult, and "Children 404" (2014), focused on the LGBT teenagers in today's Russia; his Ukrainian co-author Andrii Lytvynenko who participated in the award-winning anthology "Euromaidan. Rough Cut" (2014); Oleg Sentsov's producer Olga Zhurzhenko; producers Maria Gavrilova and Max Tuula, co-producers of the documentary project "The Term" (2014) about the Russian opposition leaders.
A year ago Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. While a large part of its Russian-speaking population welcomed the invading troops, there were also the ones who strongly opposed the occupation.
Among them was film director Oleg Sentsov (whose debut film "Gaamer" had made it to the Rotterdam Film Festival and had been screened all around the world). An active participant of the Maidan movement, he chose to stay loyal to Ukraine.
Last May Sentsov, together with a few other pro-democracy and pro-Ukrainian activists, were arrested on the allegations of preparation of "terrorist assaults" against the statue of Lenin in the Crimean capital. Still a citizen of Ukraine, he was transported to Moscow and locked up as a dangerous extremist. Through his lawyers Oleg claimed that he was tortured, while the Russian prosecution refused to open an investigation of violence gainst him, ridiculously explaining the injuries by Oleg's assumed previous S&M leanings.
Oleg is also unable to support or even see his children whom he was raising himself: 12-year-old Alina and 9-year-old Vlad.
The notorious case inspired protests in various communities all around the world. The festivals in Venice, San Sebastian and Kyiv named Oleg an honorary jury member. The European Film Academy became one of the main backers of the campaign for Oleg's freedom. Pedro Almodovar, Agnieszka Holland, Stephen Daldry, Bela Tarr, Wim Wenders, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Aki Kaurismäki, Volker Schlondorff, Betrand Tavernier, Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Zanussi and many other famous filmmakers called for his release. Some of them agreed to give interviews for our film as well.
Some of you definitely have questions regarding Oleg's case:
Who is Oleg Sentsov? Why do all these people support him? What was the reason that made the FSB show interest in Oleg? Why do the charges and actions against Oleg look so biased, incoherent and even ridiculous? Where is the truth and where is a lie in this case? And, in a broader sense, -- is it possible for a person wrongfully accused in a politically-biased process to take over the repressive machine of an autocracy?
We will try give you the answers.
The idea of the film grew out of our own weakness, from the fact that we can't influence the prospect this brave man faces – the man who just wants to live in a free country and make movies. Unfortunately, the political situation in Russia makes it harder and harder to stay outside the politics, and nothing can guarantee that anyone, regardless of their profession, won’t become a victim of this system. This film is also a chance to show support and solidarity with Oleg not only from us, but from many people.
Being unable to film Oleg other than in the courtroom, we have to seek different ways to get closer to him. We have close access to the people who knew him very well. For the safety of our heroes, we can't disclose their names until the film is finished.
The documentary will be a tapestry, made of various materials. We'll reconstruct the chronology of this dramatic detective story. The film's starting point is Oleg's arrest in May 2014. After sketching his portrait through media and outlining the circumstances of his arrest, we'll begin our own investigation. Step by step, detail by detail, we'll add strokes to the picture -- using interviews with the witnesses, court chronicles, political and social events in the both countries.
Looking for answers, we are traveling to different places. The court's sentence (or, ideally, Oleg's release) will be the final destination where we will see the real, live person and understand where the truth is in this confrontation of the individual and the state -- and if the truth can win this battle.
Askold Kurov, director (Russia)
Born in Uzbekistan, Askold has been living in Russia since 1991. He majored in Philology, Theatrical and Theological Studies. Before studying documentary filmmaking, he worked for 8 years as a package designer. In 2010, Askold graduated from Moscow’s Marina Razbezkina Film School. He was one of the directors of the award-winning documentary WINTER, GO AWAY! (2012, Locarno IFF, DOK Leipzig, IDFA, HotDocs). His next films LENINLAND (2013, Seattle IFF, Message to Man IFF, Verzio HRFF Budapest) and CHILDREN 404 (with Pavel Loparev, 2014, Hot Docs, Open City Docs,Milano FF, CPH:DOX) also received a wide critical and festival acclaim as a thoughtful look into human rights problems and social issues in contemporary Russia.
Andrii Lytvynenko, co-director (Ukraine)
Andrii graduated from the National Karpenko-Kary University of Theater, Film and TV in Kyiv in 2012 as a film director. In 2013, he received a Gaude Polonia grant and studied at Warsaw's Wajda School in the documentary workshop. Andrii made several short films and was the author of the idea and one of the directors of the anthology BEYOND EURO (2013, DocuDays UA). He also participated in the anthologies KYIV FROM SUNRISE TO SUNSET (a part of the international project THE WORLD FROM SUNRISE TO SUNSET, 2011), UKRAINE_VOICES (2014, goEast FF, Eastern Neighbors FF, Cinedoc FF, LET’S CEE FF) and EUROMAIDAN. ROUGH CUT (Jihlava FF, IDFA, Artdocfest, Silver Eye Award Special Mention).
Maria Gavrilova, producer (Russia)
Born in Moscow, Maria worked in journalism, advertising and films big and small. For a few years she was the program director of the Texture Film Festival in Perm, Russia, and the editor-in-chief of the Russian magazines Action! and The Booker's Bulletin. Together with Max Tuula, she founded the Estonian production company Marx Film. The list of the documentaries she produced includes the international anthology 15 YOUNG BY YOUNG (the Russian segment) (2012), I DON'T LOVE YOU by Aleksander Rastorguev and Pavel Kostomarov (2012, Kinotavr IFF, Warsaw IFF, Listapad Minsk IFF) and THE TERM by Rastorguev /Kostomarov / Pivovarov (2014, Karlovy Vary IFF, DOK Leipzig, CPH:DOX, IDFA, Full Frame FF).
Max Tuula, producer (Estonia)
Born in 1980 in Vladivostok, Russia, Max is an Estonian producer that now lives between Estonia and the USA. He collaborated as a journalist with various film trade magazines and participated in the production of a few shorts that enjoyed success at festivals from Berlin to Abu Dhabi. In 2012 Max coproduced the experimental docudrama I DON'T LOVE YOU (2012, Kinotavr IFF, Warsaw IFF, Listapad Minsk IFF) by Aleksander Rastorguev and Pavel Kostomarov and continued to work with the filmmakers on their cross-media project THE TERM (2014, Karlovy Vary IFF, DOK Leipzig, CPH:DOX, IDFA, Full Frame FF) and their two-part documentary KIEV/MOSCOW (2014). In 2014 Max was selected for the Berlinale Talents at the Berlin Film Festival.