(Cannes) At the same time that the world premiere of the posthumous documentary Mariupolis 2 of the filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravicius, assassinated a few weeks ago by the Russian army, the Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov appeared at a press conference, in a room next to the Palais des Festivals, to talk about his film tchaikovsky’s wife.
“Anything that is Russian must be erased,” Ukrainian film producer Andrew Fesiak told Agence France-Presse after a conference on “Russian propaganda” at the American Film Market pavilion. “Serebrennikov should have made the decision not to participate in the Cannes Film Festival,” said Kyiv International Film Festival director Andriy Khalpakhchi.
This shows how Cannes was under high political tension on Thursday. Kirill Serebrennikov, who denounced the invasion of Ukraine after soberly climbing the steps of the official screening of his film the day before, is the only Russian filmmaker selected at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Your case is special. He has been under house arrest in Moscow since 2018 because of his support for the LGBTQ+ movement, which prevented him from accompanying his two previous films, selected in competition, to Cannes. Just before the war, he was sentenced to parole and chose to go into exile in Berlin at the beginning of the war.
On the other hand, his most recent film was financed in part by a private foundation belonging to the oligarch Roman Abramovich, famously close to Vladimir Putin. Which makes him suspicious in the eyes of part of the Ukrainian film industry.
Wearing a cap and slightly tinted glasses, Serebrennikov unsurprisingly had to answer more questions about the war than about his film, which is about the brief front marriage between Tchaikovsky, who was gay, and Antonina Miliukova.
“Whether we like it or not, voluntarily or involuntarily, we are linked to these events,” said the director of theater and cinema. As Adorno said, can we make poetry after Auschwitz? »
“Be part of it”
Some had already been outraged that Kirill Serebrennikov, one of the leading Russian artists of the time, was being shown in competition at Cannes, unlike Ukrainians Sergei Loznitsa and Maksim Nakonechnyi, whose films are shown in other sections. In particular, the Ukrainian Film Academy demanded a complete boycott of tchaikovsky’s wife.
“I perfectly understand the people who demand that there be this boycott. For them, it is extremely painful and absolutely unbearable,” says Kirill Serebrennikov. “But calling for a boycott of culture solely on the basis of one’s nationality, which has been done in the past, I cannot accept. »
Culture is the air, it is the water, it is the clouds. I think we should avoid boycotting Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and even more so Tchaikovsky. We must not deprive people of culture, music, theater, cinema. That is what gives them life.
The general delegate of the Cannes Film Festival, Thierry Frémaux, also earlier this week said that he understood the point of view of those who are under the bombs on a daily basis. “We must try to make a distinction between Russians who take risks by resisting the official word. We try to behave as best as possible to try to be fair, ”he said on Monday, recalling that the Festival has banned any official Russian delegation from entering Cannes, but not its dissident artists.
“Serebrennikov is not an opponent at all,” Andrew Fesiak said. His entire career was financed with money from the Russian government. Although the Russian artist admitted on Thursday that he received state subsidies for some of his oldest works (before 2014), he clarified that at that time “I was not ashamed to have the logo of the Ministry of Culture.”
The filmmaker also defended Roman Abramovich, owner until recently of the English soccer club Chelsea. “He has been a patron for a long time and his foundation has financed many auteur films in Russia. Like President Zelensky, I want the sanctions against him lifted. He can be the intermediary for future Ukrainian-Russian talks. »
However, Serebrennikov did not in any way defend Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. “Russian culture has always promoted human values, the fragility of man, the compassion that can be had towards the soul of people, towards little people. Culture has always been against war. Because the war wants to destroy what I just talked about. The word culture and the word war they are antagonists. »
During the press conference of tchaikovsky’s wifethe Festival presented a film that was included in its program at the last moment: Mariupolis 2 of the Lithuanian documentary filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravicius, assassinated less than two months ago by the Russian army, at only 45 years of age.
Kvedaravicius’s film, which portrays daily life under the bombs in Mariupol for the inhabitants of this besieged city, was finished by fellow Ukrainian Hanna Bilobrova and her editor Dounia Sichov. The filmmaker and anthropologist had returned to Mariupol at the start of the invasion in February to look for the people who had participated in his first documentary about the city, during the Donbass war, in 2014.
Kirill Serebrennikov, 52, is due to go to the Festival d’Avignon in July the black monk of Chekhov, before finishing shooting his next film, an adaptation of Emmanuel Carrère’s novel, Limonovabout a Russian character as fascinating as controversial.
“If there were no war, we would all be much better off, and me first, because we would all be more carefree,” he replied to a journalist of Ukrainian origin, who asked him if he was happy to finally meet again in person at the Cannes Film Festival. The fact that there are bombs falling on the cities does not make me completely happy to be here. »
Turning on the television in my hotel room on Thursday night, I came across a lengthy report by the Russian government-owned continuous news channel Rossiya 24 about tchaikovsky’s wife. Reviews of the film were discussed in American trade magazines. variety Y hollywood reporter, three experts were interviewed (I couldn’t tell you more, my Russian is a bit rusty), but no audio extract from Kirill Serebrennikov’s press conference was broadcast. Obviously.
I wonder what the reaction of the Russian authorities would be if the work of an exiled dissident won the Palme d’Or this year? And I dare not imagine the outcry in the Ukraine…
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