Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov and producer Denis Ivanov are teaming up again after their last collaboration, the ‘90s-set crime drama “Rhino,” premiered in the Venice Film Festival’s Horizons sidebar last year.

The new feature, “Shining World,” centers on a mother and her young son living in a small American town in the 1960s. Described by Ivanov as a “fairy tale” with echoes of Wes Anderson’s whimsical tone, it unspools in both the real world and in the imagination of its young protagonist after he learns an amusement park is being built nearby.

“Shining World” was written by Sentsov while imprisoned on what his supporters insist were trumped-up charges after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Ivanov had originally intended to sell the script to provide a small windfall for Sentsov after his release – a suggestion the director quickly nixed. “Oleh was quite direct and said ‘No, my scripts belong to me. I want to shoot my movies,’” said the producer.

The duo began workshopping the script, sending correspondence back and forth through the prison system. (Despite the intervention of censors, Ivanov insisted it was more efficient than the Russian postal service.) It was an unorthodox but fruitful collaboration. “Between a director and producer, you don’t always have time to discuss basic questions” of plot and character, said Ivanov, adding drily, “Luckily, we had time to discuss the project in detail.”

The contract for “Shining World” was signed within a month of Sentsov’s release, but the director already had two other feature films in the pipeline. “Rhino,” a crime drama which follows its eponymous protagonist as he works his way up the criminal hierarchy in 1990s Ukraine, was shot in 2020; another feature, “Kai,” is still in the financing stage. Ivanov said that film, a family drama partly based on Sentsov’s own life experience, will be developed alongside “Shining World.”

For the time being, both projects have been put on hold: Sentsov joined the Ukrainian military on the first day of the Russian invasion and is now fighting on the frontlines in the country’s eastern region. “We hoped to shoot this autumn, but Oleh wanted to be at the war until Ukraine wins,” said Ivanov.

The duo is eyeing an international cast for “Shining World,” which marks Sentsov’s English-language debut. Ivanov said he felt a responsibility to get the film’s financing in place as the director battles on the war’s frontlines. “The Russians took so many years of Oleh’s life – the best years. Now they’re taking another year,” he said. “I hope he will be safe. But I really want to help him realize his ideas.”

An outspoken opponent of Ukraine’s former pro-Russian government, Sentsov was arrested by Russian authorities in 2014 and flown to Moscow, where he was convicted by a military court of terrorist crimes – charges that human rights groups described as fabrications. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

His arrest sparked an international outcry, with supporters including human rights groups and A-list celebrities campaigning for his freedom. Sentsov was released in 2019, when he was among the 35 Ukrainians freed in a prison swap with Russia.

Ivanov will be in Cannes presenting Natalka Vorozhbyt’s sophomore feature “Demons” during the Tallinn Black Nights Goes to Cannes pix-in-post showcase. The director’s debut, “Bad Roads,” was selected for the Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week and was Ukraine’s submission for the 2022 best international feature film Oscar. Ivanov will also be taking part in the Producers Network’s Ukrainian Producers Under the Spotlight initiative hosted by the Cannes Marché.