For Russian director Serebrennikov, the invasion of Ukraine is suicide

**The Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov, condemned by the Putin regime and banned from leaving the territory for years, has been living in Berlin since the end of March, and works throughout Europe. He returns to the terrible situation in Ukraine, and to that of the Russian population and in particular artists, caught between self-censorship and repression.
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Kirill Serebrennikov will be present in May at Cannes where his latest film, “Tchaikovsky’s Wife”, is in competition for the Palme d’Or. The Festival d’Avignon also announced that it had programmed its new play, Le Moine noir, at the opening of its next edition in July.

Speaking to AFP in Berlin, his new home, Serebrennikov, the Russian son of a Jewish father and Ukrainian mother, said he felt “just horror, sadness, shame, pain” about the invasion.

“This is the result of many years of terrible propaganda.”

“I love Russia, I love the Russian people and I know they are really peaceful,” he said. “At the same time, many of them, from what I read and see, support this terrible division, and this terrible killing, which sometimes looks like self-destruction,” he added. . “It’s happening today and I’m scared, but it’s the result of many years of terrible propaganda.”

Under house arrest and accused of fraud, he was unable to attend the Cannes Film Festival in 2017 for his film Leto, nor last year for Petrov’s fever, a hallucinated allegory of Russian society in distress.

“Culture and war are opposites and culture people cannot be part of war, they cannot be war dogs,” he said, but anti-war artists often find themselves in a dilemma as to whether they should speak out.

“I don’t want to judge”

Serebrennikov, 52, was allowed a month ago to leave Russia, where he was convicted in 2020 of embezzlement at Moscow’s Gogol Center theatre.

His supporters say the sentencing was revenge for his criticism of authoritarianism and homophobia. He was informed that, having served half his sentence, he was free to go.

“I made my choice,” he said. “But I can only speak for myself.”

There are “very brave people, very brave artists who, despite the fear, despite all this business and restrictions and criminal pressure, are trying to write something,” he said.

Examples include “a few fine theater makers” who refused their “Golden Mask” from the National Theatre, and an artist who went to jail for trading price tags in a store for information about the war so that people “have a chance to read the truth.”

Others have remained silent or actively collaborated with the regime, Mr Serebrennikov said, while insisting that it was not his role to judge.

Authorized to go into exile, and known internationally, he knows that not everyone has a chance in Russia.

“Tchaikovsky does not bomb the Ukrainians”

In May, Serebrennikov is due to attend the Cannes Film Festival, which he missed last year due to a travel ban, although his film, ‘Petrov Fever’, was selected for main competition. .

With his new film, “Tchaikovsky’s Wife”, which deals with the stormy relationship between the 19th century composer and his wife, he will again try to win the coveted Palme d’Or.

Mr Serebrennikov said he did not know when he would see his native country again, nor his almost 90-year-old father who lives in Rostov-on-Don, near the border with Ukraine, but he added : “Never say never”.

He said he did not feel exiled, but had started “a new page” in his life.

Serebrennikov said he hated violence, but found it problematic to pressure Russian artists to speak out against the war or risk being barred from international performance venues.

“It’s really tricky and it’s not really good when someone pushes you to say something, to say ‘I’m for it’ or ‘I’m against it,'” he said.

“It reminds us of something, something we already had,” he added, an apparent reference to Stalinist show trials featuring public confessions.

Mr Serebrennikov said he understood calls from Ukrainian filmmakers to ban Russian films from international festivals, but that a “culture boycott” was not a solution.

His film will be in the official selection at Cannes with, among others, the Ukrainian Sergei Losnitza for “The Natural History Of Destruction”.

For the cinema, the borders do not exist fortunately.

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For Russian director Serebrennikov, the invasion of Ukraine is suicide