European Film Academy, Pen America Call for Release of Ukrainian Director

Courtesy of Berlinale
'The Trial: The State of Russia vs Oleg Sentsov'

French President Emmanuel Macron adds his voice to calls for release of Oleg Sentsov who is approaching the second week of a hunger strike to protest what he calls the incarceration of political prisoners by Russia.

The European Film Academy, together with several industry bodies, including Pen America, the Federation of European Film Directors, the European Producers Club and national film academies in Germany, Poland, Ukraine and the Czech and Slovak Republics, have called on the Russian government to immediately release imprisoned Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov before he dies of starvation in a hunger strike.

His case is also now being championed by French President Emmanuel Macron, who says he will quietly lobby behind the scenes on behalf of a director imprisoned on terrorism charges he vigorously denies.

Sentsov began his hunger strike nearly two weeks ago to protest both his imprisonment and that of 64 other Ukrainians held in Russian prisons. Claiming their arrest and incarceration to be politically motivated, the director is calling for their immediate release. Sentsov's lawyer, Dimitri Dinze, has said the director will starve himself to death if his demands are not met. Monday will mark the 14th day of his hunger strike.

In a joint letter on Friday, several associations called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of Sentsov. The letter was signed by such film and media luminaries as British directors Mike Leigh, Stephen Daldry and Ken Loach, German filmmakers Volker Schlondorff and Wim Wenders and Russian activist Masha Alyokhina of Pussy Riot. The French directors' guild, the Russian filmmakers union and the union of Ukraine filmmakers were also among the signatories. The letter specifically does not address Senstov's demands for the release of other prisoners, who are being held for various alleged crimes.

Sentsov, a director known for such dramas a Gamer (2011) and A Perfect Day for Bananafish (2008) actively opposed the annexation of the Ukraine region of Crimea by Russia. He was arrested by Russian security forces at his Crimean home on May 10, 2014 and taken to Moscow. In 2015 a Russian court sentenced him to 20 years in prison on terror charges in a trial Amnesty International has criticized as “unfair.”

Sentsov's case has sparked international outrage, with the likes of Johnny Depp, Peter Gabriel and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine protesting his imprisonment. Sentsov's trial was turned into the 2017 documentary The Trial: The State of Russia vs. Oleg Sentsov.

In the letter, the European Film Academy said it was “deeply worried” about Sentsov's safety and called on European citizens to contact their local representatives and governments, as well as the Russian embassies in Europe, to call for the director's release.

Russia has so far not commented on Sentsov's imprisonment, except to say it can not meddle in the rulings of its independent court system, although President Vladimir Putin was visibly annoyed by questions about the Ukrainian director at a joint press conference with the French President Emmanuel Macron at the St Petersburg Economic Forum on Friday.

Macron has vowed to champion Sentsov's case, saying that he will lobby for his release.

Speaking during a news conference after talks with Putin, Macron said he discussed the fate of Sentsov and Russian theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov, who is currently under house arrest on fraud charges. Serebrennikov's latest film Leto premiered in the main competition in Cannes earlier this month. Macron told journalists he would quietly pressure Putin over Sentsov without making too big a public case, adding "I am not in charge of justic in this country."

Putin was visiblly irritated when pressed by a French journalist about the matter, saying: "You know what? Mr Sentsov was detained as a suspect in a terror plot."


A copy of the letter is below.
Don't Let Oleg Die!
Dear EFA Members,
Dear Friends,
Today is Day 12 of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov's indefinite hunger strike which his lawyer Dimitri Dinze reports he full plans to follow through to the death should his demands not be met.
Oleg Sentsov, who was involved in supporting the Euro Maidan protests in Kiev and who opposed the annexation of Crimea by Russia, was arrested by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) in his house in Simferopol on 10 May 2014 and brought to Moscow where he was detained and awaiting trial for over a year.
Although the key witness had retracted his testimony as given “under duress”, the trial, based on the accusation of Oleg Sentsov having committed “crimes of a terrorist nature”, was continued. Although thousands of signatures supporting an EFA letter to the President of Russia and Russian authorities were gathered across Europe, asking for Sentsov’s immediate release, Oleg Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
At the end of what Amnesty International described as “an unfair trial in a military court”, in late November 2015 the Russian Supreme Court in Moscow confirmed this sentence and Oleg Sentsov was moved to Yakutia.
We are deeply worried so once again we ask that his safety is ensured and that he be released immediately and unconditionally!
Please help us to help him, contact your foreign minister, your MP and MEP, and the Russian embassy in your country and ask them to do all they can for the release of Oleg Sentsov! We need to act now! (You can use the template below)
With the support of
Masha Alyokhina, activist (Pussy Riot), Russia
Stephen Daldry, director, U.K.
Mike Downey, producer, U.K.
Dariusz Jablonski, producer, Poland
Aki Kaurismaki, director, Finland
Mike Leigh, director, U.K.
Ken Loach, director, U.K.
Wojciech Marczewski, director, Poland
Daniel Olbrychski, actor, Poland
Volker Schlondorff, director, Germany
Bela Tarr, director, Hungary
Bertrand Tavernier, director, France
Krzysztof Zanussi, director, Poland
 
And 1,750 other members and friends of the European Film Academy, as well as institutions including:

ANAC Associazione Nazionale Autori Cinematografici / National Association of Cinematographic Authors (Italy)
APA Audiovisual Producers Association (Czech Republic)
Directors UK
FERA I Federation of European Film Directors
PEN America
The Austrian Film Academy
The Czech Film Academy
The European Producers Club
The French Directors' Guild (SRF)
The German Film Academy
The Polish Film Academy
The Presidium of the Slovak Film and Television Academy (SFTA)
The Russian Filmmakers Union Kinosoyuz
The Ukrainian Film Academy
The Union of Filmmakers of Ukraine
 
Deeply worried,
Agnieszka Holland & Wim Wenders

 
PLEASE WRITE TO YOUR FOREIGN MINISTER, YOUR MP AND MEP, AND THE RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN YOUR COUNTRY AND CALL ON THEM TO SECURE OLEG’S SAFETY AND RELEASE. YOU MAY WISH TO USE BELOW TEXT. THANK YOU!!!

 
Dear______________________,
 
Don’t Let Oleg Die!

Today Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov is on day 12 of an indefinite hunger strike which his lawyer Dimitri Dinze reports he full plans to follow through to the death should his demands not be met.
Oleg Sentsov, who was involved in supporting the Euro Maidan protests in Kiev and who opposed the annexation of Crimea by Russia, was arrested by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) in his house in Simferopol on 10 May 2014 and brought to Moscow where he was detained and awaiting trial for over a year.
Although the key witness had retracted his testimony as given “under duress”, the trial, based on the accusation of Oleg Sentsov having committed “crimes of a terrorist nature”, was continued and at the end of what Amnesty International described as “an unfair trial in a military court”, Oleg Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In late November 2015 the Russian Supreme Court in Moscow confirmed this sentence and Oleg Sentsov was moved to Yakutia, where he has now started his hunger strike.
I am deeply worried so I call on you to make sure that his safety is ensured and that he be released immediately and unconditionally!
My name:
My address: