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Filmmakers from Belarus who have fled government repression and state-sponsored violence have launched an independent Belarusian film academy to represent the country’s cinema artists in exile.
The Academy’s founders include producer Volia Chajkouskaya (Yoyogi); directors Aliaksei Paluyan (Courage), Darya Zhuk (Crystal Swan) and Andrei Kutsila (When Flowers are Not Silent); festival programmer Igor Soukmanov; and film critic Irena Kaciałovič.
Thousands of Belarusians fled the country in the wake of the brutal government crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protestors who began mass demonstrations following the contested 2020 presidential election, in which authoritarian leader Aliaksandr Lukashenka claimed victory despite widespread evidence of voting fraud.
Independent artists living in Belarus are under “constant threat of persecution, imprisonment and torture,” the group, which calls itself the Belarusian Independent Film Academy (BIFA), said in a statement Friday. “As well as a need to leave the country in order to continue working without state repression and in accordance with freedom of expression, a group of independent Belarusian filmmakers in exile are now uniting [to] give a voice to independent artists from Belarus who work in the film industry.”
The idea to create an independent film body outside Belarus came after Russia, a close ally and supporter of the Lukashenka government, invaded Ukraine early last year. On March 1, some 130 Belarusian filmmakers signed a collective statement condemning Russia’s military aggression.
“Since then, we all continued to face challenges individually and felt that we should unite in solidarity to form a unified front,” the group said. “All this prompted us to create a legal structure that could speak on behalf of independent Belarusian filmmakers with one voice.”
The founding members of the academy will attend the European Film Market in Berlin next week to introduce the body to the international industry and present their first projects. They will hold a press event on Friday, Feb. 17 in cooperation with the EFM, with EFM director Dennis Ruh, European Film Academy director Matthijs Wouter Knol and German Films Managing Director Simone Baumann attending.
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