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“The Trial,” documentary about Oleg Sentsov, opened for free international screenings

Fragment of the poster for “The Trial”
“The Trial,” documentary about Oleg Sentsov, opened for free international screenings

“The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov,” a documentary about the case of the Ukrainian filmmaker and political prisoner held by Russia, is now available for free international screenings, under the precondition that they are charitable. Additionally, it can be viewed online. With this step, the film’s creators show solidarity with Oleg Sentsov during his termless hunger strike, which the prisoner launched on 14 May until Russia all releases Ukrainian political prisoners it is holding. There are at least 70 such prisoners.

The film by Askold Kurov is available for free-of-charge screenings until July 31. Diplomatic missions of Ukraine, human rights activists, and volunteers are invited to participate. Prior to giving access to rights and materials, all applications will be approved by the rightholders. Fundraising for Oleg Sentsov’s family during the screenings is mandatory. To participate, please fill out this form.

In May 2014, after the annexation of Crimea by Russia, Oleg Sentsov was arrested by the Russian security service, charged with planned terrorist attacks and transported to Moscow. After over a year in custody, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, despite the testimonies having been obtained through torture and evidence was insufficient. Sentsov never pleaded guilty.

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

The film by Askold Kurov tells about the trial of Sentsov and how his family, friends, and lawyers attempt to release the director from prison. The name of the film – «The Trial» – refers to Kafkaesque absurdity, showing how anyone can become a victim of a ruthless state machine. 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.

“Sometimes it is difficult to remain a simple observer. This film is an opportunity to find and express support for Oleg not only from us, but also from many people around the world,” explains Kurov.

“The Trial”  was created with the support of Estonia, Poland, and the Czech Republic.

Part of the funding to produce the documentary was crowdfunded, and it was translated to English by a team of volunteers, among them -readers of Euromaidan Press (thank you, if you are reading this!).

“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 in 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 international premiere of the film took place in an out-of-competition program at the 67th Berlin Film Festival. The screening was organized with the European Film Academy, which for three years has called for the liberation of Sentsov. A letter with such a demand was signed by dozens of European filmmakers – Wim Wenders, Ken Loach, Agnieszka Holland, Pedro Almodovar and others.

Askold Kurov is a Russian documentalist, graduate of Marina Razbezhkina Film School in Moscow. His work focuses on human rights issues and social conflicts in contemporary Russia. Kurov was one of the signatories of an open letter to world politicians, imploring them to boycott the World Cup in Russia, which is set to open on 14 June.

After the 31 July, all screenings of the film shall be discussed with RISE AND SHINE world sales.

From 1 June 2018, “The Trial” is also available for viewing online on Vimeo for the symbolic price 1 €

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