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A possible future for Belarusian cinema was unveiled Friday in Berlin, when a group of Belarusian filmmakers, all of whom fled government repression and state-sponsored violence, launched the first independent Belarusian Film Academy.
Filmmakers Volia Chajkouskaya (Yoyogi), Aliaksei Paluyan (Courage), Darya Zhuk (Crystal Swan) and Andrei Kutsila (When Flowers Are Not Silent) founded the Academy together with festival programmer Igor Soukmanov and film critic Irena Kaciałovič.
In Berlin, they said the Academy would aim to “unite independent Belarusian filmmakers and bring their voices to the forefront of global consciousness,” to “disseminate information [about] the social and political crisis in Belarus and independent Belarusian cinema” and to “fight censorship restrictions and to defend artistic freedom.”
But they were also in Berlin to get down to business. With no access to state funding — the independent Academy is boycotting the regime of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko — the filmmakers are eager to find co-producers and finance partners elsewhere in Europe.
On Friday, they presented several fictional and documentary works-in-progress. Many, understandably, deal with the recent upheaval in Belarus, with the mass protests of 2020 and the brutal government crackdown that followed.
Darya Zhuk’s Until This Summer is set on a single day at the height of the protests and features three very different women who find themselves caught up in the demonstrations. Paluyan’s drama Waiting for Bernau filters the country’s upheaval through the lens of a family, where the father is pro-regime and the son a deviant activist. Kutsila’s documentary Letters uses the correspondence between political prisoners in Belarus and their relatives to depict the impact of the government’s repression on ordinary citizens.
Thousands of Belarusians fled the country in the wake of the government crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protestors who began mass demonstrations following the contested 2020 presidential election, in which Lukashenko claimed victory despite widespread evidence of voting fraud.
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