Produced by Denis Ivanov (“The Tribe,” “Donbas”) and Sentsov, the film centers on a young man nicknamed “Rhino,” who starts out as a petty thief before rising in the ranks of Ukraine’s criminal underworld in the 1990s. Rhino has only known power and cruelty, but with nothing left to lose, could he finally find a chance at redemption?
The film stars newcomer Serhii Filimonov as Rhino, alongside Yevhen Grigoriev and Alina Zievakova. Crew members include Academy Award-nominated director of photography Bogumił Godfrejów (“Storm,” “Home for the Weekend”).
“Rhino” was awarded best project and best pitching at the Sofia Meetings, and production was originally planned for 2014. However, Oleh was arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service in May 2014 and unlawfully sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, giving rise to a global campaign for his release. In 2018, he received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, before being finally released on Sept. 7, 2019, as part of a prisoner exchange deal between Russia and Ukraine.
Polish co-producers are Dariusz Jabłoński, Violetta Kamińska and Izabela Wójcik (“Numbers,” “Dovlatov”) and the German co-producer is Heino Deckert (“Anamnesis,” “Human Flow”). The project received support from the Ukrainian State Film Agency, the Polish Film Institute, the German film fund Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg and Eurimages.
“‘Rhino’ is not a film principally about criminality, murder and shootings,” said Sentsov. “It is a film about a man who lived through the difficult period in Ukraine during the 1990s and who now bears an internal burden that he is attempting to come to grips with.”
Maya Amsellem, managing director of WestEnd Films, added: “‘Rhino’ is a fascinating study of a man who became a victim of the time period he grew up in. Oleh brings heart and depth to this gripping crime drama, and we can’t wait to show it both to buyers and to the public for the first time in Venice.”
WestEnd, best known for Oscar-nominated films “The Breadwinner” and “Albert Nobbs,” will introduce the title to buyers at the Venice Film Festival.