At the ceremony for the academy’s Eagle Awards this week, Dariusz Jablonski, academy president, led a protest designed to draw attention to the plight of Sentsov, who was initially detained in his native Crimea, following its annexation by Russia. At Jablonski’s request, guests raised signs reading “I am Oleg Sentsov” as an act of solidarity with the filmmaker.
Olena Leonenko, a Polish artist born in Kiev, told Sentsov’s story to the ceremony’s guests and the TV audience watching at home. Sentsov had protested against the annexation of Crimea. Arrested and taken to Moscow, he has been held in the Lefortovo prison without trial for more than nine months. He faces 17 years in prison for alleged acts of terrorism. As Sentsov himself stated in his speech in court, which was screened at the ceremony, despite beatings, torture and threats of rape, he did not confess to any of the charges and did not renounce his Ukrainian citizenship.
Leonenko said: “A camera and words were Oleg’s only weapons. Whoever saves one person, saves the entire world.”
Jablonski added: “Today we, all Polish filmmakers, are Sentsovs. The Polish Film Academy symbolically takes care of him. Oleg, hold on!”
Sentsov’s words written to Polish director Agnieszka Holland, who is chair of the European Film Academy, were read out during the ceremony: “I would like to thank all filmmakers who support me, especially Poles, who have been helping Ukraine in these difficult times and have proven to be true brothers.”
Jablonski appealed to the Polish film community to continue its campaign: “We, Poles, know very well what the imprisonment for words means. Let us not abandon in prison our Ukrainian fellow filmmaker, who wanted to live peacefully in the country where he was born in and made his films.”
The Polish Film Academy has posted on its website pictures of leading Polish filmmakers standing with “I am Oleg Sentsov” placards in front of a photograph of Sentsov standing behind bars.