Ukrainian Director Sergei Loznitsa Quits European Film Academy After Shameful Response to Invasion

Director Sergei Loznitsa has slammed the European Film Academy (EFA) for its response to Russia invading Ukraine.

Loznitsa voiced his criticisms in an open letter published February 28 on Screen Daily, before quitting the Academy.

“What a shameful text has been generated by the European Film Academy! ‘The invasion in Ukraine is heavily worrying us,’” Loznitsa wrote, quoting an email that EFA director Matthijs Wouter Knol previously sent to The Hollywood Reporter on February 24. “You state in your address that there are 61 Ukrainian members among your ranks. Well, as of today, there are only 60 of them. I don’t need you ‘being alert and staying in touch with me,’ thank you very much!”

The EFA previously issued a statement: “On behalf of the community of over 4,200 members of the European Film Academy, we want to express our solidarity with you.”

European cinema “has always been shaped by important values [of] human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, and human rights,” the EFA added. “As an Academy and through our work, we strongly advocate for these values and protest any violation [of them]. Rest assured we stand behind you, supporting your work in the best way we can.”

EFA chairman Mike Downey told The Hollywood Reporter in an email February 24 that while “moral outrage is called for” following Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine, it’s “not that helpful at this point in time.” Downey added, “It’s a bit too soon to respond with action, but we are watching the situation with our board, as well as colleagues in border countries like Poland to see how we can all work together to provide practical support for any Ukrainian filmmakers who may be in need of it.”

In his open letter, “Donbass” director Loznitsa condemned the lax response from EFA, writing, “For four days in a row now, the Russian army has been devastating Ukrainian cities and villages, killing Ukrainian citizens. Is it really possible that you — humanists, human rights and dignity advocates, champions of freedom and democracy — are afraid to call a war a war, to condemn barbarity and voice your protest?”

Loznitsa continued that “there can be no more doubt about one thing: the European Film Academy was set up in 1989 in order to bury its head in the sand and to shy away from the catastrophe which is taking place in Europe.”

Loznitsa recently told IndieWire that “as far as Ukrainians are concerned, the war has been going for eight years already. In a way, psychologically, Ukrainians have become almost used to this situation of living in a potentially dangerous wartime condition.”

Loznitsa’s 2018 film “Donbass,” which represented Ukraine in the International Feature Oscar race (it didn’t crack the top five), featured a series of 13 vignettes involving the corruption and suffering at the root of daily life in Ukraine. A prologue includes actors hired to provide fake news testimony after bombings, with families rushing to bomb shelters and a Ukrainian POW attacked by separatists.

“The nature of the conflict has nothing to do with nationality,” Loznitsa said. “It’s Soviet versus anti-Soviet, not Russia versus Ukraine. It’s really about the conflict between past and present. Now, finally, everybody sees it.”

Loznitsa also offers a glimpse at what the world will look like if Putin succeeds: “People will be subjected to the same kind of corruption — moral and mental alike — as they did during the Iron Curtain,” the director said. “The most important thing that happens during these times is what happens to people’s morals, as they become comfortable doing evil things, just like what the authorities are doing to them.”

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