No signs of propaganda found: three films by Russians supporting Putin included in Venice Film Festival programme

Darya SkubLife
Ukrainian students are fighting for the truth on the cultural front.

On Thursday, March 23, the Ca' Foscari Short Film Festival started at the University of Venice. This competition is open to students from all over the world. This year, the jury selected 30 films out of 3000. The "best" list includes three Russian-made films whose creators support the war in Ukraine.

This was reported to OBOZREVATEL by Anastasia Tchaikovska, a student at Ca' Foscari University. The Moscow-based media outlet was delighted with another success on the cultural front, and later reposted its publication on the festival's Facebook page with the words "Even in Russia, they are talking about us."

"My friends and I were outraged, of course, and went to check the directors and the film crew for support for Ukraine or the war. And what we found was very sad," says the activist.

The programme features:

  • "Aglaya, Merry Christmas!" by Yelyzaveta Verkhovenska. The students found out that the director represents the Moscow Film School, whose graduates work for Russian propaganda channels.
  • "Pererug" by Mikhail Boreysha. According to Anastasia, the film's actors and producer publicly support the war and cooperate with Russian propagandists. She also added that one of the actors is raising funds for the occupiers.
  • "Runaway" by Salome Kintsurashvili. The students found out that, according to the DIU, Samvel Karapetyan, the owner of the Tashir Holding company, which is linked to Gazprom, is one of the sponsors of Russian aggression against Ukraine. His son is married to the film director Salome Kintsurashvili and serves on the board of directors of his father's company.

An attempt to reach the organisers

After the investigation, Anastasia Tchaikovska and her students approached Professor Maria Roberta Noviello, one of the festival's organisers: "We asked to exclude the films from the competition. Further, to remove at least the schools they represent and to indicate that they are affiliated with Russian government agencies. We asked the directors to speak out at the premiere in support of Ukraine."

The professor's response disappointed the activists. She, according to Tchaikovska, "spoke about l'arte è fuori politica (art beyond politics), and compared our war to wars around the world". In her conversation with Anastasia, Maria Roberta Noviello noted that the festival gives Russians the opportunity to express their position and prove themselves as filmmakers outside of a dictatorial state.


The struggle continues

The students wrote a letter to the rector of the university, Tiziana Lippiello (silence in response), and also posted information on Instagram "PuntoInternoUA". This post quickly began to spread, gaining resonance, and a few days later, the rector sent a response.

"She informed us that the university has always been and will be on the side of Ukraine. That they helped Ukrainian students a lot and supported them in every way. The university paid the students a regional scholarship allocated for Ukrainians, but I have not heard of any other support. The rector said in her response that on Monday, March 20, they would consider this problem and make a decision," says Tchaikovska.

The activist added that all the cultural or charitable initiatives she wanted to organise at the university were rejected. For example, she offered to show the film "A Great Journey Through Ukraine" in one of the Ca' Foscari auditoriums and was rejected.

Next, a journalist from the Italian newspaper Corriere della sera contacted the students to cover the event. After the conversation, the Ukrainians asked to wait with the publication, as they hoped for a positive response from the rector. The university maintained a long pause, so the article was published on the website.

On Tuesday, March 21, when there were only a few days left before the festival, Anastasia received a letter. The letter again stated that the university supported Ukraine, but that the jury members had watched the Russian films and found no signs of propaganda.

Anastasia is unaware of any instances of support for her and her friends' initiative from university representatives: "Maybe they did and tried to help, but unfortunately, we don't know about these heroes."

Is art out of politics?

Thursday. March 23. During the festival's premiere, one of the university representatives took to the stage and said that Ca' Foscari categorically condemns Russophobia and will not support it because "culture is beyond politics". This sounds rather ironic, as the same day Ca' Foscari's programme included two political films: Bloody Grave (Iran) and As Dúas en Punto (Spain). "The director of the second short film called from the stage to fight for democracy. So what is this if not politics?" - says Anastasia.

The only thing the activists managed to achieve was to go on stage to deliver a speech at the festival's opening. One of the university's graduates, Oleksandr Rybalchenko, told the truth about the events in Ukraine and about the directors of the Russian short films in the competition programme.

"It is unfair to say that art is outside politics, while Russian missiles destroy Ukrainian theatres, cinemas and museums, and the occupying army steals works of art, which are then taken to Russia. Many people have told me that there are more than 40 conflicts in the world, so why should we pay more attention to the war in Ukraine? We, the students from Ukraine, are particularly involved in this war, and so we are trying to do everything we can to stop it," the activist said in his speech (see the full video below).

Finally, Oleksandr added: "If art promotes dialogue between cultures, as some say, it should be a dialogue, not silence." Afterwards, the students handed out printed booklets with facts about the directors' pro-Russian views to all those present. Did the Ukrainians succeed in achieving their goal? No. It is a matter of time. If there are many more people who care, we will be able to break through the walls of "who cares" and "we are out of politics".

"Most likely, the people responsible for the festival do not check directors and teams with bad intentions. It's just because they don't care. And now the university is not ready to take responsibility and correct the mistake," Tchaikovska concludes.

Earlier, OBOZREVATEL wrote that the Russian film about Navalny won an Oscar. The politician's wife took to the stage to receive the award and spoke boldly about the "fight for democracy".

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