Berlin (AFP) – Russia is self-destructing with its war in Ukraine, according to film and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov, who said domestic support for the invasion was the result of “many years of terrible propaganda”.
Speaking to AFP in Berlin, his new home, Serebrennikov, the Russian son of a Jewish father and a Ukrainian mother, said he felt “just horror, sadness, shame, pain” in the face of the invasion.
“I love Russia, I love the Russian people and I know they are really peaceful,” he said. “At the same time, a lot of them, from what I read and what I see, support this terrible division, and this terrible killing, which sometimes looks like suicide,” he said.
“Culture and war are opposites and people of culture can’t be part of war, they can’t be dogs of war,” he said, but anti-war artists often find themselves in a dilemma as to whether they should speak out.
“I don’t want to judge”
“Imagine if you say something tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, immediately the police will come to arrest you, and what to do?” He asked. “People have their families, people have their businesses, their jobs, they need to earn money to live.”
There were “very brave people, very brave artists who, despite the fear, despite all these cases and restrictions and criminal pressures, are trying to write something,” he said.
Examples were “a few good theater makers” who turned down their National Theater “Golden Mask” awards, and an artist who went to jail for trading price tags in a store for war information so that people “have the chance to read the truth”. .”
Others have remained silent or actively worked with the regime, Serebrennikov said, though he insisted it was not his role to judge.
“If you want to be Leni Riefenstahl, welcome, if you want to be Marlene Dietrich, welcome,” he said.
Riefenstahl was a German photographer and filmmaker who made vital contributions to Nazi propaganda, while star actress Marlene Dietrich helped Jews escape from Germany, renounced her citizenship and toured the States United to boost morale during World War II.
“It’s a person’s choice and let’s respect that choice,” he said.
“If people decide to live forever in Moscow and work for power, that’s their choice, they can do it freely, for me I don’t want to judge them at all,” he said.
“I made my choice”
Serebrennikov, 52, was allowed a month ago to leave Russia, where he was convicted in 2020 of embezzling funds at the Gogol Center theater in Moscow.
His supporters say the sentencing was revenge for his criticism of authoritarianism and homophobia. He was informed that having served half his sentence, he was free to go.
“I made my choice,” he said. “But I can only speak for myself.”
Serebrennikov said that “of course it’s not easy” for most artists to leave Russia “because they don’t have money and they don’t have a visa.”
He said he felt “privileged” with his new home in Berlin and the ability to work across Europe.
In May, Serebrennikov is due to attend the Cannes Film Festival, which he missed last year due to a travel ban when his film, “Petrov’s Flu”, was selected for main competition.
With his new film, “Tchaikovsky’s Wife”, about the stormy relationship between the 19th century composer and his wife, he will once again compete for the coveted Palme d’Or.
He is also working on an opera production in Amsterdam and will present a play at the prestigious Avignon theater festival in the south of France.
Serebrennikov said he does not know when he will see his home country again, or his nearly 90-year-old father who lives in Rostov-on-Don near the border with Ukraine, although he has added: “Never say never”.
He said he did not feel exiled, but had started “a new page” in his life.
“Tchaikovsky does not bomb”
Serebrennikov said he hated violence, but found it problematic to pressure Russian artists to denounce the war or face exclusion from international venues.
“It’s really tricky and it’s not really good when someone pushes you to say something, to say ‘I’m for’ or ‘I’m against’,” he said.
“It reminds us of something, something we already had,” he said, an apparent reference to Stalinist show trials featuring public confessions.
Serebrennikov said he understood calls from Ukrainian filmmakers to ban Russian films from international festivals, but that a “culture boycott” was not a solution.
“Tchaikovsky does not bomb Ukrainians,” he said.
© 2022 AFP