Producers of the films “Oleg” and “Imad's Childhood” found out about the “European Film Festival” in Russia only after the call from Latvian Television. This has caused outrage and questions – why is such a film festival being held in Russia and why have filmmakers not been asked for their permission?
The film “Oleg” is a joint production of Latvia, Lithuania and Belgium. Film producer Alise Ģelze says she contacted the film's distributors, who are based in Brussels. Russia hasn't been on the lists of festivals sent to them in the past half year.
This event is organized by a venture of the same name – European Film Festival. Ģelze said: "They have sold this organization the right to distribute the film on the network of these festivals. In other words, they have access to a catalog of films and this “European Film Festival” is organized in each country, the slogans of which corresponded to the basic conditions of that organization."
The producer has also contacted a Lithuanian colleague. "She's even been made aware of this festival, she had in-depth discussions with this organization of the European Film Festival. And what I found out is that it's a soft propaganda act from the European Union in Russia. Which I was not informed about," Ģelze said.
The film "Imad's Childhood" is a co-production of Sweden and Latvia. It is the Swedish producer who is responsible for the contract with the sales agent.
Film producer Matīss Kaža said: “In my practice, it's the first such case. A screening of a film that I am associated with has been offered in a terrorist country, without my knowledge. If I had known it, I would have said we didn't accept it. I think the issue here is the understanding by Western distribution companies and so-called sales agents of the geopolitical situation of the moment.”
Matīss Kaža said he has also contacted the film's sales agent himself with a request to remove the film from the repertoire:
“To which they responded to me that this festival is funded by European Union funds and that it is a European Union project and has nothing to do with the Putin regime. But I think at this time it doesn't matter if there's a direct connection or not. We should not, as European producers, allow our films to be screened in this terrorist country.”
This festival's slogan is “Cinema Unites”. LTV contacted those indicated on the website and got confirmation that the EU delegation was indeed hosting the festival. “The film festival is not organized in cooperation with Russian official institutions. The festival is an instrument to promote European values, culture, thought, and freedom of expression. It also makes it possible to more effectively unmask Russian propaganda against the European Union.”
LTV contacted MEP Sandra Kalniete (New Unity). She, too, had found out about the festival only earlier in the week: “For me, it looks more like a typical propaganda technique inherited from the USSR, as with such agile cultural communication activities, the illusion of a relationship being normal or normalizing is created.
“And I also have great doubts that the ambassador of the European Union would allow such a thing to happen. But in any event, indeed, if it is his responsibility, it must be clarified. If so, he has to answer for it.”
The National Film Center also says that contacts with Russia and Belarus are no longer maintained. “We recommend films by meeting, for example, with festival program makers in markets and various other industry events, and we try to recommend that films be shown [..] not one film at a festival at once, but a set of films representing not a country but an entire region,” said Agnese Zapāne, coordinator of international festivals at the Center, stressing: “Relations with Russia and Belarus have been cut off at this time.”
At the producers' request, both the film “Oleg” and “Imad's Childhood” have been removed from the festival program.