Kyiv's Dovzhenko Centre under threat of closure
- Ukraine's largest film archive has declared insolvency, and its director, Ivan Kozlenko, has filed his resignation as the state has not provided any funding since January
The Kyiv-based Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Centre, Ukraine's largest film archive, containing some 6,000 Ukrainian, Russian, European and American films, is under threat of closure following the inability or lack of willingness of the country's Ministries of Culture and Finance and the State Film Agency to provide funding.
On 28 May, the centre declared insolvency, and its director, Ivan Kozlenko, resigned, declaring that he refused to “manage the liquidation of the Dovzhenko Centre after having dedicated eight years of my life to its establishment and to the building of its international reputation”.
The situation has provoked strong reactions in the film community and the cultural sector in Ukraine. The Facebook publication of the statement prompted over 4,000 reposts. An open letter from the cultural community addressed to the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, and other high-ranking officials has been signed by over 5,500 film and creative industries representatives, and an official petition has also been launched.
The international community has also reacted, including the president of the EUNIC (European Union National Institutes for Culture) cluster in Ukraine, the Swiss Embassy and the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF), which sent a letter to Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal where they expressed concern about the future of the Dovzhenko Centre (read it here).
There has been no official reaction from the government, except for the head of the State Film Agency, Maryna Kuderchuk, declaring in a radio interview, "All necessary documents required to provide the centre with financing have not yet been prepared by the agency."
The Dovzhenko Centre was created in 1994, during the first few years of Ukraine's independence, inside the premises of a defunct film-copying factory that had to be adapted and refurbished. However, it’s only in the past five years, with the new general director and a young professional team on board, that it has set the goal of becoming a cultural location open and contributing to the public.
"Despite a very small budget and ridiculously low salaries, we started to renovate the post-industrial abandoned building, worked hard to open the film museum, exhibition spaces and an experimental film/theatre platform, and invited independent cultural initiatives and small creative businesses to join us as residents," explains Olga Zhuk, the centre's creative director. "Without essential financing from the state, the new generation of art managers inspired by the Maidan revolution transformed the old institution, and became truly international and open. Moreover, we decided not to close during the ongoing renovation of our premises and welcomed the public to numerous events, allowing them to see the transformation and how the space was changing. This brought us new audiences, media, partners and their trust – in fact, that's why today, in such an unfortunate situation, we have this massive support and dedication from the community."
On 5 June, the Committee for Humanitarian and Information Policy at the parliament, together with new Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko, met with Kozlenko and expressed their willingness to solve the problem. Kozlenko is expected to meet with Tkachenko and Kuderchuk again next week to approve the budget and discuss the next steps.
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