Russia-Ukraine Tensions Threaten 'Battle of Sevastopol' Film

Stuart Farmer

The co-production started filming in Crimea last fall.

MOSCOW -- As tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalate, the two countries' filmmakers are struggling to complete a co-production ironically set during a WWII battle for Sevastopol, the home of a Russian navy base in Crimea.

The shooting of Bitva za Sevastopol (Battle of Sevastopol) by director Sergei Mokritsky, the first high-scale co-production between Russia and Ukraine in years, began in the Black Sea peninsular region of Crimea last fall, before anti-government protests that led to the ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych began in Kiev. One third of the filming was completed during the first production stage.

STORY: Russia's Filmmakers Clash With West Over Ukraine, Split Over Crimea

Set against the backdrop of WWII's Battle of Sevastopol, the movie is centered on Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko, also known for her visit to the United States and Canada as part of a delegation in 1942, and her calls for the Allies to take a more active role in the war against Nazi Germany.

Battle of Sevastopol is co-financed by Ukraine's state film agency and Russia's culture ministry, with Russian actress Yulia Peresild in the main role and Joan Blackham starring as Eleanor Roosevelt.

Now, the secession of Crimea from Ukraine to Russia and escalating tensions between the two countries have put the project in jeopardy.

STORY: Russian Movie Production Suspended in Crimea

While the Russian part of funding is on track, Ukraine's dire financial problems and the sour relations between the two countries over Crimea have made the prospects of the movie uncertain.

Still, the producers are hopeful. "At the moment, the situation with the budget is difficult, but we're trying to solve problems as they come," producer Natalia Mokritskaya was quoted as saying by the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. "But we'll complete the film in any case. In the current situation, it's a matter of honor."