Cancelling Russian artistes is 'grotesque': Ukrainian film-maker Sergei Loznitsa

Sergei Loznitsa has fallen out with many of his compatriots over his attitude toward boycotting Russians. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

CANNES (AFP) - A celebrated Ukrainian film-maker, speaking at the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday (May 24), said it was "inhumane" to turn against all Russians despite the "devastating" invasion of his country.

Sergei Loznitsa was at the festival on the southern French coast to present a timely new documentary about the bombing of Germany during World War II.

The Natural History Of Destruction uses archive footage to show the terrible price paid by civilians during the conflict.

"The reason the film resonates so strongly with the situation today is that it turns out we still haven't solved this problem, and that destroying civilian targets is still a legitimate method of conducting a war," Loznitsa, 57, told AFP.

Although many Ukrainians knew that war might break out at any time, he said it was impossible to imagine it would be "so violent, so devastating".

"The barbarism... has thrown us back 100 years and we've realised we are completely powerless," he said.

"The only hope is if human mentality is transformed," he added.

'Good Russians'

Despite his horror at the current war, Loznitsa has fallen out with many of his compatriots over his attitude toward boycotting Russians.

He was kicked out of the Ukraine Film Academy in March after refusing to lump all Russian artistes together, saying it would be better to "unite freedom-loving and free-thinking people of the world against the Russian aggression".

Last week in Cannes, the head of the Kyiv International Film Festival, Andriy Khalpakhchi, told a panel that there was no such thing as "good Russians" at the current time.

Loznitsa told AFP that branding people as good or bad was "grotesque".

"Perhaps his (Khalpakhchi's) reaction and opinion is caused by this very strong emotional distress he's experiencing and perhaps that's understandable," he said.

"But at the same time, I can't accept this. Such an attitude is inhumane."

There has been controversy in Cannes over the organisers' decision to include Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov in the main competition for the Palme d'Or.

Although Serebrennikov has condemned the war and gone into exile, many in the Ukrainian film world say his past ties to the Russian authorities, and funding from oligarch Roman Abramovich, means he should have been excluded this year.

"We feel strongly that anything and everything Russian must be cancelled," said Andrew Fesiak, founder of Ukrainian production firm F Films, said at the panel discussion in Cannes last week.

Loznitsa has been adamant in his opposition to such blanket bans.

"How do you define this concept of Russian? Are you Russian because of your passport, your citizenship? Because of your ethnicity? It's a slippery slope," he said.

"I firmly believe people should be judged on their individual words, their individual actions, and not their passports. Every individual case should be judged on its own merits."

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