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Film about imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Sentsov to be shown at Berlinale

The filmmakers used drawings to illustrate Oleg Sentsov’s life which was unavailable in film
Film about imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker Sentsov to be shown at Berlinale

The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov,” a film about the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov who Russia sentenced to 20 years in prison on absurdly fabricated charges, had been selected to be shown at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival. It will be screened as part of a special event organized jointly with the European Film Academy in honor of its 30th anniversary.

The documentary was made by an international team of filmmakers. It is the first documentary about the farcical injustice inflicted on Sentsov and three others, Oleksandr Kolchenko, Gennadiy Afanasiev, and Oleksiy Chyrniy, accused of “terrorism” after they opposed the Russian occupation of their native Crimea.

Part of the funding to produce the documentary was crowdfunded, and it was translated to English by a team of volunteers.

“The idea of the film was born from our own weakness because we couldn’t influence the fate of this person who just wants to live in a free country and shoot films. We thought that the Soviet methods of “bloody terror” have long passed, but the events of today, unfortunately, are evidence to the contrary.

We hope that the finished film will be a contribution to the international campaign to defend Oleg Sentsov and will help him return to freedom. Sometimes, we have no right to be silent,” the filmmakers wrote on the crowdfunding campaign site for the film.

Film director Askold Kurov, who personally knows Sentsov, was so shocked by the trial that he decided to show the circumstances of the case of Oleg Sentsov with the help of a documentary. He joined forces with another film director Andriy Lytvynenko in July 2014 and shooting for the film took off in Moscow and Kyiv and lasted over a year. The team also includes Estonian film producers Mariya Havrylova, Maxim Tuula, as well as Sentsov’s producer Olha Zhurzhenko.

As filming Oleg is prohibited anywhere except the courtroom, other solutions were found to introduce the hero to the audience. Oleg’s story was told through interviews with people who were close to him, through his texts, sometimes, with the help of animation, and also – through events and the stories of heroes who got involved in this story and changed their lives.

The Trial
Oleg Sentsov behind bars. A screenshot from the film

In August 2015, a trial was held against Sentsov and Kolchenko in Russia’s Rostov-on-Don. Despite the absence of convincing evidence and one of the witnesses retracting his testimony as that given under torture, the court sentenced Sentsov to 20 years, as an alleged leader of a “terrorist group.” International human rights organizations have recognized Sentsov as a political prisoner, and international film circles are working towards the release of Oleg Sentsov.

Read more: The Sentsov-Kolchenko case: what you need to know

Recently, in a special project by the Ukrainian TV channel Hromadske, Sentsov’s powerful letter was read by some people Ukraine is proud of: the writers Serhiy Zhadan and Andriy Kurkov, actors Ada Rohovtseva and Oleksiy Vertynsky, musicians Sasha Koltsova and Andriy Khlyvnyuk, rhythmic gymnastics world champion Anna Rizatdinova and painter Mykola Myrny.

Oleg Sentsov is one of the 36 Ukrainians illegally imprisoned by the Kremlin on political motives. The #LetMyPeopleGo campaign advocates for all of them. Its aim is to release all the prisoners from the #LetMyPeopleGo list and controls observance of fundamental human rights, among which are freedom from torture, the right to a lawyer, the right to medical care and so on. Follow the campaign in social media: Facebook (English, Ukrainian), Twitter (English, Ukrainian), visit the site letmypeoplego.org.ua.

 

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