ukraine panel

Source: Ben Dalton

The Ukraine panel at Karlovy Vary

Russian hackers have targeted the website of the Czech Film Commission, taking down a page that laid out details of safe film production in the Czech Republic, according to Film Commission head Pavlina Zipkova today in Karlovy Vary.

“Please don’t visit the Czech Film Commission website, because it has been attacked by a virus – actually from Russia,” said Zipkova, who was speaking on a panel about ‘The Impact of the War in Ukraine on the International Film Industry’, as part of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF) industry offering.

Having received a large number of enquiries since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February about safe filming in the country, the Czech Film Commission had run a page at the start of June targeted at incoming international productions saying that the Czech Republic is a safe place to film.

Within a matter of days of the page being live, it and several other areas of the Czech Film Commission site were replaced by a blank white screen with the message ‘fuck, u ve been hacked’.

The Commission brought in an independent IT expert to investigate the online attack, who said the source of the attack was a Russian hacking programme designed to bring down pages that feature certain words or phrases that could be considered beneficial to Ukraine.

The page in question did not include comment from the Commission on the war; it only included details on why the country is a safe territory. The website is now operational again, although Zipkova said there is still further information to be uploaded; the hacking message can still be viewed through a Google search, but has cleared once clicking through to the page.

Funding difficulties

Zipkova was joined on the panel by five producers: Simone Baumann, managing director of German Films; Dagmar Sedlackova of Masterfilm; Uldis Cekulis of VFS Films; Igor Savychenko of Ukraine’s Directory Films; and Daria Bassel of Ukraine’s Moonman and DocudaysUA International Film Festival. The panel was hosted by Ivanna Khitsinska of Odesa International Film Festival, as part of a partnership with KVIFF.

The topic of collaboration with the Russian film industry continues to provoke debate. Baumann said it was already “unacceptable to work with Russia” before the February invasion. “There is no point working with Russian filmmakers, unless they are clear against war and leaving the country,” she added. “Of course it’s disappointing – but it is like this.”

“While there is a war, until the war is over, Russian culture and particulary Russian films have to be suspended [from festivals],” said Bassel. “You can recall the situation with #MeToo or BlackLivesMatter – people were reacting aggressively on that. White men were not satisfied that women have to be in the spotlight; there was WhiteLivesMatter too. The other side is always unsatisfied. But we know we have to support groups that have been oppressed – it’s basically the same thing.”

“Until Russian is leaving this awful war, and not using its culture for awful propaganda – there is no question about that.”

Ukrainian producer Savychenko was more explicit in his opinions, “Lots of people in Europe wish us peace,” he said. “We don’t need peace, we need victory.”

Baumann said the “real problem” going forwards will be in the financing of Ukrainian films. “It’s not a secret that Ukraine doesn’t have any money,” she said. “I have my doubts that in 2023 the Ukrainian film institute will be able to open its funding programmes, so we need to think about that.” 

“My biggest fear is that we won’t be able to engage in projects,” added Bassel. “In one or two years there will be lots of French, German, Czech films filmed in Ukraine, but without Ukraine as a company of production, or with just service producers. This is a problem, because we’ve been fighting for that, to be heard in the international market. That fight lasted for several years.” 

Bassel acknowledged the support from various European territories, noting that she is about to apply to a Polish fund for Polish-Ukrainian co-productions. However that is still not perfect, she noted, as the receipt of funding will mean rights to the script will belong to the Polish co-producer, not the Ukrainian one.

Last week Karlovy Vary defended itself against criticism in an open letter from Ukrainian filmmakers, regarding the choice to programme state-backed Russian title Captain Volkonogov Escaped in this year’s festival.