Two-time Oscar-nominated producer Alexander Rodnyansky (“Leviathan,” “Loveless”) said he felt “unbearably ashamed” and “incredibly, deeply sad” when his son called from Kyiv on Thursday with news that the Russian invasion of Ukraine had begun.
“Of course, I realized before that the situation might go this way, but I still couldn’t believe that missiles are exploding in Kyiv,” Rodnyansky told Variety by email. “I couldn’t imagine that Kyiv, my native town, where my relatives, friends and colleagues live, where my parents and grandparents are buried, will be struck by missiles of the country where I have been living and working for the last 20 years, together with my family and friends.”
The Moscow-based producer was born in the Ukrainian capital, which was under siege by Russian troops on Friday. He said that “after the first shock” of Thursday’s invasion passed, he wrote an Instagram post in which he said he was mourning “for all the people who woke up in war.”
“But today I know that the Ukrainians will come through this. Gentle and brave people will come through this war. Because they are fighting for their motherland,” he said. “I know that many Russians, smart and sensitive people, are shaken to the core. They feel even more ashamed.”
He added: “There are no excuses for war. Whatever those who make it claim.”
Rodnyansky was born into a distinguished family of filmmakers in Kyiv: his grandfather was a documentary filmmaker, his grandmother a silent film actress. He began his prolific career making documentaries before founding Ukraine’s first independent television network, 1+1. He then moved to Russia, where he took the helm of media giant CTC Media before branching out to produce through his Moscow-based Non-Stop Production, which he founded with Sergei Melkumov in 2005. In 2018 he launched the Los Angeles-based banner AR Content.
Rodnyansky’s credits include Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” and “Loveless” – both nominated for foreign-language Oscars — as well as the 2013 blockbuster “Stalingrad” and “Chernobyl 1986,” a historical drama about the meltdown at the nuclear power plant that on Thursday was seized by Russian troops.
While trying to make sense of the current crisis, the producer drew a parallel to the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan, which began more than 40 years ago and raged for a decade. “I remember very well how the Soviet government explained to us the absolute necessity of the Afghan war. And how it cost 10 years, 15,000 Soviet soldiers and nearly a million Afghans killed to admit that it was a tragic error,” he said. “Few Americans today could find an excuse for wars of their country in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan.”
Russia’s war on Ukraine, he said, is “another tragic mistake.” “Not because the national economy will crash, our country will stagnate in global isolation and deepen the ever-growing technological gap,” he said. “But because the shame for this mistake will never go. It will stay with our children and our grandchildren.”
As this week’s invasion drew condemnation from the international community, as well as wide-ranging economic sanctions announced by U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday, Rodnyansky added: “We can’t stay silent. NO to war.”