EXCLUSIVE: Timur Bekmambetov, the high-profile Russian-Kazakh director who is credited as the creator of the Screenlife genre with projects including Searching and Unfriended, has condemned the “tragedy” in Ukraine and is working on a project analyzing the digital aspects of the conflict.
Speaking to Deadline from Israel, the Los Angeles-based filmmaker described the present situation as “a monumental calamity.”
Bekmambetov was born in Kazakhstan and spent many summers in the Ukrainian cities of Chernihiv and Kherson, he said, before he made a name for himself with Russian movies that were widely viewed both in Russia and Ukraine.
“This is the world we used to live in and it is heartbreaking to see how it fell apart overnight,” he commented.
The filmmaker revealed he is now working on a documentary project, DWW1, that will look into how the conflict is also being waged in the digital arena. The film is partly inspired by Bekmambetov’s first feature, Escape From Afghanistan, about the Soviet Union moving troops into the titular South Asian nation.
“It brings about so many parallels to what is going on now – not only in terms of the military campaign itself, but also how the officials are misleading the public about the war,” he said. “There is only one difference: this time there are more wounds because the people get them not only on the actual battlefield but also in the digital space. Fighting is unfolding on the screens of our devices, making us either willing or unwilling participants or accomplices, destroying what shells and missiles cannot reach.”
“We will be collecting evidence and stories on how the digital space has become both an invaluable tool for live updates from the battlefield and also a means to spread fake and misleading material,” Bekmambetov continued. “The unprecedented social media war is posing big questions on how to deal with polarization, violence, hate speech, disinformation and propaganda, and how to ensure access to verified and trusted information.”
Asked how he felt about the international film community’s response to the conflict – which has seen Russian films banned from some festivals as well as this year’s European Film Awards – Bekmambetov described the reaction as “emotional, sincere and reasonable”.
“This might not be the right time for the festivals in general: while the blood is being shed in Ukraine, European festival blood-red carpets develop a sinister meaning,” he added.
On the subject of whether Russian filmmakers would be able to access state-backed funding going forward, considering the sanctions being put in place on Russia, Bekmambetov said that “many projects will be put on hold or suspended given the circumstances”.
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.