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The European Film Academy has expressed its solidarity with and support for its Ukrainian colleagues following Russia’s launch of a military operation in the country.
In an email to The Hollywood Reporter, EFA chairman Mike Downey called for the international film community to help artists within Ukraine who find themselves suddenly on the front line of the conflict.
“Moral outrage is called for — but it’s not that helpful at this point in time,” writes Downey, who is also a board member of the International Coalition for Film Makers at Risk. “It’s a bit too soon to respond with action, but we are watching the situation with our board, as well as colleagues in border countries like Poland to see how we can all work together to provide practical support for any Ukrainian filmmakers who may be in need of it.”
Downey said the EFA will be discussing the situation in Ukraine at its board meeting next week to see what concrete action can be taken. He noted that many Ukrainian artists and filmmakers could be in danger should the conflict intensify.
“There are clearly a number of individual artists who have been outspokenly critical of the Russian regime, so if this turns out to be a full-on occupation, their lives will be more endangered than they are already,” says Downey.
The EFA was instrumental in securing the release of Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov (Rhino) after he was arrested by Russian forces in Crimea in 2014 while protesting Russia’s annexation of the region. A Russian court found Sentsov guilty of “plotting terrorist acts” and sentenced him to 20 years in prison, but a coordinated effort by the EFA, Amnesty International and the European Parliament, led to his release in 2019.
Earlier this month, as the conflict along the Russian-Ukrainian border intensified, the EFA sent a letter of support to the Ukrainian film community.
“On behalf of the community of over 4,200 members of the European Film Academy, we want to express our solidarity with you,” the letter read. European cinema “has always been shaped by important values [of] human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and human rights,” the EFA added. “As an Academy and through our work, we strongly advocate for these values and protest any violation [of them]. Rest assured we stand behind you, supporting your work in the best way we can.”
There are currently 61 Ukrainian members of the EFA.
“The invasion in Ukraine is heavily worrying us,” EFA director Matthijs Wouter Knol wrote THR in an email. “While we have been aware of the ongoing political and military escalation in the Eastern part of Ukraine for many years, which first gained international attention with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, we do realize that the current events and daily increase of tension has an impact on filmmakers’ lives and health, morale, and creative work.”
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