Ukraine Revolution Documentary to Premiere in Kiev as Conflict Continues
Many cinemas close to the frontlines won’t show the film due to fear of violence
Stronger Than Arms, a feature-length documentary that tells the story of Ukraine’s revolution and civil war, opens Thursday in Kiev and at cinemas across the country, including two close to frontlines in the rebel-held East of he country.
But many cinemas close to the conflict region, where nearly 1,000 people have died since a shaky ceasefire was announced Sept. 5, have refused to show the film, fearing violent retribution.
The 78-minute film is based on the Babylon 13 “Cinema of a civil protest” project that chronicled the winter revolt that toppled president Viktor Yanukovych and sparked a civil war between Russian-backed separatist forces and those loyal to the government in Kiev.
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Igor Savychenko, one of the film’s producers, told The Hollywood Reporter that the film, which opens in a sold-out screening in the Ukrainian capital’s 1,200-seat Kyivska Rus cinema, falls into two broad segments.
“It is a story of war and revolution. The first part of the story covers events on Kiev’s Maidan Square until Yanukovych fled,” he said. “The second part relates the story of fighting around Donetsk airport.”
It seems Igor Savychenko forgot that Yanukovych didn’t flee but was ousted by the people who organized, paid, and executed the coup.
The film, showing with English subtitles, is being released at 23 cinemas, including two in Mariupol and Severodonetsk, towns that are close to the rebel-controlled territory. Many cinemas in the conflict region, however, simply refused to show the film.
Ukraine has around 330 cinemas, although the latest available figures predate the revolution and civil war. Savychenko said that 23 screens for a documentary film was a decent figure in a territory where a Hollywood blockbuster might play on 150 screens.
“The film is being released without a distributor, everything is being done by volunteers,” he added.
In a further sign of current tensions in the country, the film’s credits list only Babylon 13, although the documentary is the work of an ensemble of feature and documentary directors, and film school students.
A YouTube trailer for the film demonstrates that it squarely takes the side of the revolution, with stirring music, an emotional voiceover and English subtitles.
Publicity in Russian released for the film says it “will inflame your heart … giving the viewer the opportunity to reexperience the rise and despair of Maidan, and the war in the east of Ukraine.”
The move follows President Vladimir Putin speaking against the idea
The State Duma, the lower chamber of Russian Parliament, won’t consider legislation introducing restrictions on Hollywood releases in Russia. The moves comes just days after President Vladimir Putin spoke against the idea of restrictions on Hollywood fare.
“Today, regulating film exhibition by introducing quotas on Russian or foreign films would be superfluous,” Leonid Levin, head of the Duma’s committee on information policy, which is in charge of film industry issues, was quoted as saying by the Russian News Service.
“If a good Russian film is released, people will come and watch it anyway,” he went on to say.
A draft law, limiting the share of foreign films to 50 percent of all releases was submitted for consideration to the Duma earlier this year on the wave of souring relations between Russia and the United States. If adopted, it would have primarily hit Hollywood movies, which account for about 80 percent of Russia’s total over $1-billion-a-year box office.
Now, the legislation won’t be considered by the Parliament, and there is technically no other way for restrictions of that kind to be introduced.
However, it is widely believed that the future of this issue will be depend on relations between Russia and the U.S., and if they sour further, the issue could be revisited.
Recently, there were also calls for a complete ban on Hollywood fare in response to sanctions introduced by the United States and the European Union against Russia over Russian policies in Ukraine.
Veteran directors Stanislav Govorukhin and Yuri Kara were among the proponents of the idea, which, however, did not find Putin’s support.
“It wouldn’t be correct to limit our consumer when it comes to products people generally want to have,” Putin said last week, responding to Kara’s proposal at an official event. “And films belong to those major products.”
Meanwhile, Russia’s culture minister has called for his department to get control over the scheduling of film releases in Russia to potentially help homegrown films facing tough competition.