“When the Russians…“, the traditional Russian Film Festival in Paris, was going to take place all this week, from March 21 to 29, with the title “When the Russians travel”. In the process of being canceled due to the war in Ukraine, its eighth edition has finally been redesigned and renamed: “The Paths of Russian Cinema”, with the support of Ukraine. It will take place in small steps until the end of June. Five films are in competition. The jury prize chaired by Pierre-Richard should be awarded on May 4.
We attended the launch party and met the young Russian director Vladimir Bitokov, who came to Paris to present his second film selected by the Festival. When the famous Russian actress Chulpan Khamatova, close to actor Denis Lavant, revealed having left her country, denouncing the conflict.
“There are discussions about the war but in private, in the kitchens, as we used to say in Soviet times”
“I really can’t say all I want to say and I don’t want to say what should be said“. This Wednesday night, at the Max Linder Parisian cinema, just before the screening of Mom, I’m home!Vladimir Bitokov does not hide his dismay at his own freedom of expression. lamenting”to be honest“may his film, a drama about the mother of a murdered soldier, be”unfortunately current“, tells the viewers that they should”understandyour feelings, on the big screen. The day before she spoke to us, weighing every word to avoid problems when she returned to Russia.
Vladimir Bitokov: “It is very difficult to say that we are against the war, it is very dangerous.”
Of course we can say that we are for the war, but it is very difficult to say that we are against it, it is very dangerous. Arguments, there are, but in private, as we used to say in the Soviet era, we argue in the kitchens. There is, of course, but there are really no public discussions and it is not yet clear what will happen and how to react.
Is it important to you that your film, produced by a Ukrainian, be screened at this evening of support for Russian and Ukrainian filmmakers?
The film is a film about a mother who lost her soldier son and is trying to find him. And I think that is something very important because in any conflict there are always mothers looking for their dead children. Is a delicate topic. I did it three years ago and I don’t know if we could do it now. It would probably be more complicated.
Is there a way to self-censor or a way to not get too involved in controversial issues?
It is something that has always existed: this self-censorship, this internal censorship. It’s true in film, it’s true in all forms of art. It is an ongoing problem and it is certainly a current problem. It is an eternal problem, creators with their own feelings of self-censorship. On the other hand, we know how much these phenomena took place during the Soviet regime, and despite this, great directors always managed to make great films.
What about the current boycott of Russian artists close to power?
I think it’s not good, because culture must remain independent of political issues, it must remain free. It is a very important thing. It is absolutely necessary that we maintain circulation, cooperation on a cultural level between European states, even if there are difficulties.
Support for Russia from other filmmakers and artists
On Wednesday night, the festival “unequivocally” condemned the Russian invasion. From “messages for Russia and for the crying Ukraine” were proposed to the 500 people gathered in the great hall of the Max Linder. Videos recorded and presented by the Russian-born actress Macha Mérilevent sponsor.
“Russian artists have signed petitions, risking years in prison. We have a duty to them! : Macha Méril, godmother of the Russian Film Festival in Paris
the German filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff thus he stated that “Putin is not Russia. And it is this image, of a critical and cultivated, humanistic and humane intelligence, that must survive. This is Russia, this is the Russia we love“.
The invasion of Ukraine, for the writer and French filmmaker Emmanuel Carrère“That doesn’t stop us from liking not only the movies we used to like, but also the movies by Russian filmmakers that are being made today. Russian artists, Russian writers, Russian filmmakers are not, necessarily or most of the time, accomplices of his regime. They suffer from it and suffer from it too.“
The journalist and Russian writer, Dmitry Glukhovsky he mentioned thewar personal” by Vladimir Putin: “Ukrainians are fighting for their freedom and for the integrity of their country, they are fighting for their lives. But there is also the war that Mr. Putin is waging against the Russian people, against Russia and its future, by transforming Russia into a totalitarian regime. Now is the time to do everything possible to save the Ukrainian people and save ourselves from the dictatorship.“
“I am fascinated and scared by what is happening”: The actor Denis Lavant who has toured a lot in Russia, in Eastern countries and lent his voice to the documentary “The Putin System”
The Russian Film Festival will continue until the end of June, with other screenings and meetings or debates. Under the auspices of the event, a Russian film is screened every Sunday mornings at 11 a.m. at Le Balzac independent cinemanear the Champs Elysées. The Soldier’s Ballada 1959 film directed by Grigori Tchoukhraï, will be in theaters on March 27, for example.
“We focus on Russian filmmakers and artists, victims of Putin and whom Putin would like to see disappear”: Marc Ruscart, general delegate of the Russian Film Festival in Paris
The next exceptional evening will take place on April 19, at another associated art house, Studio 28, with a panel discussion after the screening of a film in competition and at the center of the news: In your dreams by Eugène Marian, shot in Transnistria. Another is scheduled for May 4 at the Balzac, in the presence – unless then prevented, of course – by actor Youri Borissov for the film. Captain Volkonogov’s Flight whose premiere scheduled for next week in Russia should not take place. As the General Delegate of the Russian Film Festival in Paris, Marc Ruscart, points out: “This feature film shows the fear of the Russians in the face of the NKVD”the state body in charge of population control during the Soviet era.
The departure from Russia of actress Chulpan Khamatova
the actor Denis LavantShe, present on Wednesday at the launch party of the Festival, spoke about the situation of her friend Chulpan Khamatova: “A huge Russian actress with whom I shot a film in Bulgaria. She left as soon as the Russian army invaded Ukraine, trying to protect her children. And she fears a little for her family, for her parents who are still in Russia“.
Known for her roles in Goodbye Lenin! or more recently in Petrov fever, from her compatriot Kirill Serebrennikov, Chulpan Khamatova revealed just a few days ago that she had left her country for Latvia, denouncing the war in Ukraine. In an interview with Russian journalist Katerina Gordeeva and broadcast on YouTube on Sunday, the 46-year-old actress announced that she had indeed been in the Latvian capital for several weeks.
“I wasn’t in Russia, I was on vacation when the war started. At first I thought we had to wait, then I signed a petition against the war, then they made me understand that it would be better not to return to Russia.“, explained in particular from Riga what is considered one of the best Russian actresses of her generation, also present in recent years in theater and on television.
According to Chulpan Khamatova, there are two options left if you want to return to your country without going through jail: “Stop saying it’s a war, it’s a tragedy (…)” Where “Apologize for not supporting the military operation“. But, he assures, “I can’t ignore what I see with my own eyes. (…) I know I’m not a traitor (…) I deeply love my country“.