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Sarajevo 2022 – CineLink Industry Days

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

Sarajevo’s CineLink takes the temperature on Ukrainian film production amidst the war

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Four leading Ukrainian industry figures – including acclaimed directors Maryna Er Gorbach and Maksym Nakonechnyi – discussed their inspiring and ongoing work as the war continues to rage

Sarajevo’s CineLink takes the temperature on Ukrainian film production amidst the war
l-r: Tamara Tatishvili, Natalia Libet, Maksym Nakonechnyi and Maryna Er Gorbach during the panel discussion

Whilst there is no end in sight to the overall armed conflict with Russia, Ukraine has been able to secure and defend much of its territory in the west of the country, and so some aspects of normal life can resume. This includes its previously buoyant film industry, and the work undertaken by the mass of artists who have already been responding to the scarring events across the past decade, commencing with the Maidan protests. This sense of purpose was seen in CineLink Industry Days’ Producing During the War panel, which provided a vital look at how the Ukrainian film industry has been able to endure and regroup, and also how it has changed the delivery strategies for many of the projects already under way.

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Chaired by Tamara Tatishvili, the panel was notable for including Maksym Nakonechnyi, the director of Butterfly Vision [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Maksym Nakonechnyi
film profile
]
, and Maryna Er Gorbach, who made Klondike [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Maryna Er Gorbach
film profile
]
. These two Ukrainian filmmakers have garnered great acclaim for their work on this year’s festival circuit. Also present on stage was producer Natalia Libet, from Esse Production House, whilst Tetyana Filevska, creative director of the Ukrainian Institute, called in via Zoom.

The panel began with a question about just how the respondents were holding up at this perilous time. Libet gladly revealed that she was “very busy, and living out of [her] suitcase” whilst gaining “a lot of money and a lot of fame”, much to the laughter of the audience. Nakonechnyi put forward his experience on the ground in great detail: “In January, it became quite obvious that something was going to happen. A lot of colleagues spoke to the international media, and gave them proper training on the safety issues and protocols. A lot of people I knew started being fixers for international journalists, and started volunteering and assisting our armed forces or the civilian population.”

The Butterfly Vision filmmaker is shooting a reportage documentary in collaboration with a few other young Ukrainian directors of his generation, and gave a vivid sketch of his working conditions: “The team on our production, in late February, decided that it would be much easier and safer to live all together in our office. It became a hub. We had some bulletproof vests and a lot of medicine. Our team would deliver it to people in need. There was lots of filming equipment because we kept on filming. When you’re a documentary filmmaker, it’s a process of seeing and analysing the reality, and building up some vision of yours.”

Later on in the discussion, more practical matters were brought up, as Tatishvili asked the panel about the provisions for co-production funding. Libet gave a detailed round-up of the scope for this: “We have the Polish Film Institute helping for Polish-Ukrainian projects, and this has been on an ongoing basis. It’s easy to receive a response [to our submissions], whether we’ve reported it or not. The CNC is accepting applications made by French producers with Ukrainian writers on board – a writing development fund. We had around 25-30 films in post-production at the end of March, fiction and documentary. They’ll be able to be released this and next year.”

She also gave figures on development, which she described as the “most complicated” stage. Going on, she said, “They’re dealing with strict rules. The Polish Film Fund allows 20% to be spent outside of Poland – this can be spent on Ukrainian filmmakers. For Luxembourg, it’s 40%. French funds, both regional and national, also allow it. We can use the Belgian Tax Shelter, too.”

Er Gorbach spoke very passionately, to occasional break-outs of applause, about Ukrainian national identity and the ways in which Russia is seeking to wreak cultural as well as military destruction: “We’re discussing all we are discussing because we’re at war. We’re at war because we want to be an independent country, but it’s also about culture and language. We want to be Ukrainians. Culture is the reason why we had this war. If it’s important to invest in the army, it should also be the case for culture. Why can’t all of these oligarchs around the world support Ukraine and have this social input? Why not? This is a question of generations: there are lots of new, young filmmakers, who are very independent from the post-Soviet style. Twenty young directors who are very promising. We need money – that’s what I’m trying to say!”

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