Berlin Ukrainian Showcase to Highlight Plight of Oleg Sentsov

Oleg Sentsov Poster - H 2014
Courtesy of Ukrainian FIlmmakers Association

Oleg Sentsov Poster - H 2014

The Ukrainian director, held in a Russian prison for over a year, is due to go on trail on terrorism charges on July 11.

The plight of Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, accused by Russia of plotting terrorist acts in Crimea, is to be put under the spotlight later this month at a Berlin festival of Ukrainian film.

Organizers of the Days of Ukrainian Cinema in Support of Oleg Sentsov, running June 29-July 2 at the German capital's Babylon cinema, will use the event to highlight the cause of a promising young director seized by Russian agents in May 2014 and flown to Moscow, where he has been held in custody ever since.

Russian authorities allege Sentsov was involved in a terrorist plot in his home city of Simferopol following the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula last year.

Sentsov denies all charges and has appealed to be released on bail ahead of a trial date set for July 11. A Moscow court on Thursday dismissed his latest appeal, ruling that he should remain in custody.

Supporters of Sentsov, whose first film, Gamer, was critically acclaimed when it screened at the Rotterdam Film Festival in 2012, hope to use the Berlin event to raise funds for his defense. The European Film Academy has opened an account for donations towards his legal expenses.

Hollywood stars, including Stellan Skarsgard, are among international film industry figures who have added their names for calls for his release.

Anna Palenchuk, an organizer of the Ukrainian Days event, said expenses for maintaining Sentsov's legal team and monitoring his health while he remains incarcerated were currently running at over $2,000 a month.

The Berlin screenings, which follows similar events in London in May and at the opening of Director's Fortnight in Cannes, will show documentaries and features, both modern and classic, including Miroslav Slaboshpitsky The Tribe; Maidan by Sergei Loznitsa; and a restored version of cult film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Sergei Parajanov.

The EFA is hoping solidarity events will also be held at the Venice and Toronto film festivals later this year.

“The case of Oleg Sentsov remains a matter of deep concern to the EFA board and membership,” said British producer and deputy chairman of the EFA, Mike Downey"Maintaining attention on his cause and raising funds to support his family and for legal expenses remains one of the top goals of the Academy as we move into the second year of his detention without trial."

Downey added: "The support fund account remains open and we ask all supporters to contribute and show solidarity for this brave and uncompromising filmmaker."