Cannes film festival criticised for including Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov's film in competition

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov speaks during a press conference for the film "Tchaikovsky's Wife".
Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov speaks during a press conference for the film "Tchaikovsky's Wife".
Photo: Stefano Rellandini/AFP

  • At the Cannes Film Festival, Ukrainians said that all Russians should have been banned from the event.
  • During a panel discussion, the speakers were critical of the decision to include Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov's film in competition.
  • Serebrennikov has gone into exile since the invasion of Ukraine and called for an end to the war at his film's premiere on Wednesday.


Ukrainians at the Cannes Film Festival said Thursday that all Russians should have been banned from the event - even those who have spoken out against the war.

"We feel strongly that anything and everything Russian must be cancelled," said Andrew Fesiak, founder of Ukrainian production firm F Films.

"At a time when Ukrainian filmmakers are forced to stop making movies because they either need to flee for their lives or take up arms... Russian filmmakers cannot pretend that everything is fine and that they are not to blame," he added.

Fesiak was speaking at a panel at the festival co-organised by the Ukrainian and American delegations.

The speakers were critical of the festival's decision to include Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov in the competition for the Palme d'Or with his film Tchaikovsky's Wife.

Serebrennikov has gone into exile since the invasion of Ukraine and called for an end to the war at his film's premiere on Wednesday.

But the Ukrainian panel said his history of taking Russian government money meant he was complicit with the regime.

"Serebrennikov's whole career was financed with Russian government money. They don't finance people who are opposition," said Fesiak.

In an interview with AFP, the director said he understood the position of Ukrainians.

"They are in a terrible situation, this war is a catastrophe," Serebrennikov said.

"For them, it's even difficult to hear the Russian language. I can understand that.

"But for European culture to cut off Russian culture would be a big mistake, and I'm happy the festival chose the right way - not to work with officials but not to ban an independent Russian film with a sad story from the 19th century," he added.

Another member of the Ukrainian panel, Andriy Khalpakhchi of the Kyiv International Film Festival, said Tchaikovsky's Wife had been funded with "black money" linked to Russian oligarch (and former Chelsea owner) Roman Abramovitch.

He said there was no such thing as "good Russians" at the current time.

"I know a few good Russians, but most good Russians ended with Crimea," Khalpakhchi said, referring to the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia in 2014.

Serebrennikov said Abramovitch was just one source of financing for his film out of "lots of European funds".

"He is a guy who's helped lots of contemporary art projects in Russia," Serebrennikov told AFP, adding that Abramovich had also been involved in negotiations and "is the only person that Ukrainians trust".

A major theme at the festival

The war has already been a major theme at the festival, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky making a surprise video appearance at the opening ceremony on Tuesday and a special screening on Thursday of Mariupolis 2, a documentary by Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius, who was killed in Ukraine last month - reportedly by Russian forces.

The stark documentary shows desperate residents trying to survive among the ruins of Mariupol following the invasion.

But such serious fare can sometimes sit awkwardly with the more spectacular Hollywood displays that light up the red carpet in Cannes.

The team who completed Mariupolis 2 said they were shocked by the French Air Force display team that had screeched across the sky the previous evening as part of celebrations for the new Tom Cruise blockbuster.

"I was with a friend from Mariupol, a producer. She's been experiencing the war for eight years," said Hanna Bilobrova, the girlfriend of Kvedaravicius, who was with him in the eastern Ukraine city up to his death.

"We were on the balcony and heard jets flying, and we almost lay down. Bombs didn't follow. (My friend) began to cry. (She) was very ashamed about her reaction, and I said there's nothing to be ashamed about. We're still alive."


We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24