Ukrainian director Stanislav Kapralov (“Let It Snow”) was in the middle of pre-production for a new film — a Hollywood project with U.S. actors and a U.S. distributor lined up — when Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday. The film was set to be shot in Chernobyl, which was seized by Russian military forces on the first day of battle. Kapralov, who is also a screenwriter and producer, has worked with some of Ukraine’s biggest names, including Ivanna Sakhno (“Pacific Rim: Uprising,” “High Fidelity”). His latest feature, American Ukrainian mystery thriller “Egregor,” premiered in 2021.
Kapralov spoke to Variety by email on Friday morning.
Where are you right now?
My family and I are in Ukraine. It was not possible to leave, but we moved from Kiev to western Ukraine. My father and grandmother are still in Kyiv. They are hiding in basements from bombings – elderly people sitting in damp basements… My grandmother and father aren’t panicking though. Everyone believes in the Ukrainian army, and no one loses heart. The Ukrainian army is putting up a heroic effort and is inflicting heavy losses on the Russians. Everyone is united in their hatred for Russia. My grandmother lived during the occupation of Ukraine in World War II. Now all Ukrainians compare Russia with fascist Germany.
How are you feeling?
It’s like we’re in a movie. Sometimes there is a feeling that this is not happening to us. Women are crying. Little children ask why the Russians are killing us. We see high-rise buildings destroyed by bombs, crying bloodied children…We understand we will never forgive Russia for this. From this day forward, this will be a personal vendetta. I am not a warrior, so I will take revenge as best I can – through art and movies.
Do you feel the international community is doing enough?
The U.S., Britain and Europe helped us with weapons over the past few weeks. We thank them, but just about a day has passed since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the international community expressed only “deep concern” and imposed ridiculous sanctions that will definitely not stop Putin. The situation was similar with the occupation of Crimea in 2014, and the Russian attack on the Donbas in 2015. All Western countries “expressed concern” to Ukraine and didn’t stop Putin. The result is today’s aggression, which Europe has not seen for 80 years.
It seems to me that the whole world, and especially Europe should understand that Ukraine is now not only fighting for its independence, Ukraine is fighting for all of Europe to stop a ‘Hitler’ of the 21st century. But we get the feeling that we are fighting alone…NATO refused to close the airspace; Germany, Italy, and Hungary blocked a proposal to cut Russia off from SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), and Turkey refused to help in the Black Sea. In order for aggression to stop, Russia needs to be hit with force.
The international community must understand — if Ukraine is seized by Russian invaders, this will mean a new world order and uncontrolled aggression. Ukraine really needs help. We are bombarded with rockets, attacked by planes, infantry, artillery…Imagine if Poland had not surrendered in 1939? If they had stopped Hitler’s advance? Would there have been such a tragedy?
Were you in the middle of working on a project when the Russians invaded?
Yes, I was just in pre-production of my new movie. This is an international project with American actors and a Hollywood distributor. The film was supposed to be shot in Ukraine, in Chernobyl. Today, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was captured by Russian troops. My previous film was also set to release in cinema in Ukraine in a few weeks, and later internationally.
Will you continue to try working on the movie?
We made a decision to evacuate the project to Europe and shoot there. I hope our plans come true. To do this, my team and I will need to travel to Europe. Preferably alive. We are all still currently in Ukraine.
Do you plan to leave Ukraine?
I plan to leave Ukraine. Possibly to the U.S. I do not think in the coming years there will be an opportunity to work peacefully and implement my ideas. Russia took away my home, my world and my opportunity to create in my native land.
Is there anything the artistic community can do to help?
I am sure that many of my colleagues will leave Ukraine and start their lives from scratch. We all know how difficult and how long it takes to start a new career in a new place. It would be great if the artistic community would support people who will look for work in the U.S., Canada, Europe. It will be important for them not to be alone, as the Ukrainian army has remained now.