Ukrainians at Cannes call for total Russian ban
Exiled Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov is in competition at Cannes with 'Tchaikovsky's Wife' CHRISTOPHE SIMON AFP

Ukrainians at the Cannes Film Festival said Thursday that all Russians should have been banned from the event -- even those who have spoken out against the war.

"We feel strongly that anything and everything Russian must be cancelled," said Andrew Fesiak, founder of Ukrainian production firm F Films.

"At a time when Ukrainian film-makers are forced to stop making movies because they either need to flee for their lives or take up arms... Russian film-makers cannot pretend that everything is fine and that they are not to blame," he added.

Fesiak was speaking at a panel at the festival co-organized by the Ukrainian and American delegations.

The speakers were critical of the festival's decision to include Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov in the competition for the Palme d'Or with his film "Tchaikovsky's Wife".

Serebrennikov has gone into exile since the invasion of Ukraine and called for an end to the war at his film's premiere on Wednesday.

But the Ukrainian panel said his history of taking Russian government money meant he was complicit with the regime.

"Serebrennikov's whole career was financed with Russian government money. They don't finance people who are opposition," said Fesiak.

In an interview with AFP, the director said he understood the position of Ukrainians.

"They are in a terrible situation, this war is a catastrophe," Serebrennikov said.

"For them it's even difficult to hear the Russian language. I can understand that.

"But for European culture to cut off Russian culture would be a big mistake and I'm happy the festival chose the right way -- not to work with officials but not to ban an independent Russian film with a sad story from the 19th century," he added.

Another member of the Ukrainian panel, Andriy Khalpakhchi of the Kyiv International Film Festival, said "Tchaikovsky's Wife" had been funded with "black money" linked to Russian oligarch (and former Chelsea owner) Roman Abramovitch.

He said there was no such thing as "good Russians" at the current time.

"I know a few good Russians but most good Russians ended with Crimea," Khalpakhchi said, referring to the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia in 2014.

Serebrennikov said Abramovitch was just one source of financing for his film out of "lots of European funds".

"He is a guy who's helped lots of contemporary art projects in Russia," Serebrennikov told AFP, adding that Abramovich had also been involved in negotiations and "is the only person that Ukrainians trust".

The war has already been a major theme at the festival, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky making a surprise video appearance at the opening ceremony on Tuesday and a special screening on Thursday of "Mariupolis 2", a documentary by Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius, who was killed in Ukraine last month -- reportedly by Russian forces.

© 2022 AFP