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Konstantin Khabensky on Nazi Camp Escape Movie ‘Sobibor’

Konstantin Khabensky’s “Sobibor,” which screened in the market at Cannes, is based on a real-life concentration camp revolt during World War II, but although it is historically accurate, the director tells Variety that its “true quality” is its “emotional impact.”

The film centers on a Soviet officer, Alexander Pechersky, who organizes a mass escape from Sobibor, a prison camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. As well as directing, Khabensky also stars as Pechersky, alongside Christopher Lambert, who plays Nazi SS officer Karl Frenzel.

Although Pechersky led the revolt, Khabensky says the “main hero” is the camp itself. The movie is divided into different “episodes,” he says, and “every episode has its own destiny, its own path, its own rise and fall, its own details.” He adds: “It was very important to me to research and show all of these episodes, and each were equally important.”

The actor-director says the film “speaks best to audiences who are open to emotionally accept things that are not easy to accept. We have been through 10 countries [with the film] so far, and everywhere this film goes to the heart of these people.” The film, although set in the past, is still relevant now, he says. “Humanity hasn’t learned its lessons yet,” he says.

Khabensky says that one of the challenges of the shoot, which took place in Lithuania, was the cold weather, as the film was shot in the fall, the same time of year that the real-life escape took place.

The producers were Elmira Aynulova, Gleb Fetisov, who earned an Oscar nomination this year for “Loveless,” and Maria Zhuromskaya. Khabensky praises them for having the “bravery to go on the market with a film like this.” The Russian government also helped fund the movie.

All Media Company, which is handling international sales, has sold the film to Germany, where it is being distributed by Kinostar and KinoKartina TV, France and Switzerland, where it was picked up by First International Production, the U.K., where the distributor is 4 Digital Media, and Japan, where it was picked up by Fine Films. Other territory deals include Spain (Flins and Piniculas), Israel (KinoRai), Benelux (DFW), Poland (Nova Films), Hungary (Romis Entertainment), and Australia (Jewish Intl. Film Festival).

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