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European Film Academy President Agnieszka Holland Slams Cannes for Welcoming a Russian Movie

11 December 2021, Berlin: President of the European Film Academy Agnieszka Holland speaks at the 34th European Film Awards ceremony. The European Film Academy presents the awards in Berlin. Photo by: Christian Mang/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Christian Mang/picture-alliance/

European Film Academy president Agnieszka Holland has criticized the Cannes Film Festival for welcoming a Russian movie to the main competition.

The Polish-born director – who fled to France in 1981 when Communist authorities imposed martial law – said now was the time to stand up to Russian aggression in Ukraine.

That demanded a total ban on Russian cultural products in Europe, she said in Cannes on Saturday.

The Academy Award-nominated filmmaker slammed the festival’s inclusion of Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov’s “Tchaikovsky’s Wife.”

“If it were up to me, I would not include Russian films in the official program of the festival – even if Kirill Serebrennikov is such a talented artist,” the 73 year old filmmaker said.

Speaking in Cannes at an industry roundtable on supporting the Ukrainian film industry at a time of war, Holland added: “Unfortunately my bad feelings were confirmed by his words. He used [the film’s festival press conference] to praise a Russian oligarch [the film’s funder, sanctioned billionaire Roman Abramovich] and compare the tragedy of Russian soldiers to Ukrainian defenders. I would not give him such a chance at this very moment.”

Holland, whose 2019 film “Mr. Jones” focuses on the true story of a Welsh journalist who in the 1930s discovered the truth of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin’s enforced famine in Ukraine – that left millions dead from starvation – added that all Russian culture, even 18th century classics, needed reviewing now as the consequences of “Russian imperialistic aggression” became clear.