Film producers are sometimes used to dealing with difficult conditions however Denis Ivanov, by no means may have anticipated the dramatic diversion his job would take when, on February twenty-fourth, Russia launched a full-scale army invasion of his dwelling nation.

The Ukrainian producer-distributor, who has long been an everyday fixture on the worldwide competition circuit with credit together with Oleg Sentsov’s Rhino and Sergei Loznitsa’s Donbas, now volunteers—as many different creatives within the nation—for the native territorial military. Ivanov is driving or delivering ammunition, elevating cash internationally, serving to transport drones, no matter could also be wanted on any explicit day to facilitate the locals in combat in opposition to the continued onslaught of Vladimir Putin’s military on the nation.

Speaking through Zoom from his workplace within the nation’s capital of Kyiv the place, at the time of the interview, Russian troops had withdrawn to deal with their offensive in jap Ukraine, Ivanov seems calm and centred. He will not be combating on the frontlines, however, his battle is nonetheless necessary: he’s combating to protect Ukrainian tradition.

“The conflict will not be solely in regards to the army,” he says. “The very first thing Russians are doing after they come right into a city or village is that they go into the library and take out all of the Ukrainian books about our historical past. It’s not that they’re simply combating for the land, they’re combating in opposition to our language and our tradition. The world has usually considered Ukraine as a part of the Russian-speaking world, however for us, we all know we aren’t simply that. We are attempting to make everybody perceive that we’re distinctive, and we aren’t a part of Russia.”

The challenges forward are admittedly arduous but when a previous couple of months have proven the world something, it’s that Ukrainians are powerful, resilient and can combat fiercely to guard their heritage and homeland. Ivanov’s firm, Arthouse Traffic, was one of many first movie corporations within the nation to distribute and produce arthouse cinema when it was based in 2003. It co-produced Myroslav Slaboshpytskyi’s 2014 Cannes Critics Week entry The Tribe and has since launched greater than 400 movies. The firm was additionally a founder and co-organizer of the Odessa International Film Festival from 2010 to 2013.

Now, with Russian troops out of Kyiv for the second, Ivanov and his colleagues have already begun the method of rebuilding and attempting to get locals again into cinemas.

“We’re making an attempt to do some harm management as a result of, when it comes to cinemas, many have been destroyed,” he says. “In Kyiv, one of the vital fashionable multiplexes was hit by a missile. But we’re getting again to work. It’s not about making a living; it’s about getting the group lively and rebuilding.

“Of course, going to the cinema will not be the very first thing persons are spending cash on, but it surely’s necessary that we take part on this large wheel and check out our greatest to maintain the financial system going.”

During this yr’s Cannes Film Festival, Ivanov shall be urging worldwide gross sales brokers to assist empower Ukrainian distributors by treating them as a separate entity from Russia, a significant concern for the native sector there now. Ivanov says that fifty % of content material Arthouse Traffic buys is thru Russian distributors as a result of traditionally many international gross sales outfits, notable ones with smaller groups, which have most well-liked to take care of a much bigger territory.

“This is a big problem for impartial distributors like our firm as a result of we will purchase from Russia now due to the sanctions,” he says. “We undoubtedly must rebuild everything, and it’s a course of however at the identical time there’s a huge query mark as to how we are going to do it within the upcoming few years as a result of there are particular restrictions.”

Film manufacturing, he says, is a fair larger problem as he and his colleagues and contemporaries proceed to seek out sources to complete movies that we already in post-production when the conflict started.

For Ivanov, the time is now for Ukraine and its creatives to be forthright in regards to the adjustments that must be carried out for the nation to interrupt out of Russia’s shadow. Since the conflict broke out, the influential exec has been vocal about backing a proposed boycott of Russian movies and has personally known upon all worldwide movie organizations and festivals to refuse to advertise or settle for Russian titles.

“It’s not about boycotting Russian filmmakers as a result of lots of them are in opposition with [Vladimir] Putin,” he says. “But that is about transferring in opposition to a system that must be rebuilt. Many nice administrators usually are not pro-Putin however whose movies are financed by Putin oligarchs or the Russian Minister of Culture so that they’re a part of the ecosystem that has seen Russia inflict a ‘particular operation’ in Ukraine. We simply wish to cease the system, not the rational filmmakers, however the narrative.”

He hopes that “breaking the system” would in flip encourage Russian artists to look at their very own narratives, which Ivanov believes are laden with tales exalting Russia’s position in World War II or plots with Russian troopers successful in the fight.

“Russian tradition additionally must reinvent itself and it received’t be reinvented if it’s related with establishments who’re chargeable for propaganda or oligarchs who help Putin,” he says.

In the run, as much as Cannes, Ivanov, who’s a part of the Cannes Market’s Producers Network, and his counterparts have been constructing a dialogue with the competition’s organizers to clarify their opposition to some choices the competition has made for its seventy-fifth version. Notably, he raised difficulty with the competition’s opening evening movie Z (Comme Z) from Michel Hazanavicius, which Ivanov has known as a pro-war image of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Even the Ukrainian Institute issued an official letter to the competition relating to this, as ‘Z’ is taken into account a pro-war image in Russia. In response to this criticism, Hazanavicius has modified the movie’s title to Coupez!.

While Ivanov notes the unique title was certainly a coincidence, there have been large moral ramifications on the Russo-Ukraine state of affairs. Ivanov has additionally been vocal in regards to the inclusion of Kirill Serebrennikov’s Tchaikovsky’s Wife, which is screening In Competition this yr, a title that’s backed by Roman Abramovich’s $100 million movie fund Kinoprime. The EU and the U.Okay. have imposed sanctions on Abramovich as a result of his shut ties to Putin.

“Cannes is a vital competition and the one everybody appears to be like to,” he says, “so how they method these subjects will impression how different festivals and delegates deal with issues. It shall be a domino impact.”

As Ivanov continues to combat the nice combat, he’s fast to brush off any suggestion that he is likely one of the cultural heroes of the present Ukraine era.

“My mates who’re within the frontline risking their lives, they’re the heroes,” he says. “We are all simply attempting to do what we will on the opposite entrance.”

It’s clear that Ivanov is happy with what Ukraine has constructed when it comes to tradition in simply 4 many years of existence, and he, like so lots of his countrymen and ladies, are dedicated to constructing it additional. He has been “overwhelmed” by the quantity of solidarity the worldwide movie group has proven in Ukraine, which has buoyed morale and resolve. He urges the broader movie group to help screenings of Ukrainian movies in their very own international locations and proceed to present Ukrainian voices in an area in native media.

“We are grateful for all the small issues as a result of, imagine me, they’re essential to us,” he says. “What we don’t wish to do is simply be victims. Of course, we’re in a laborious state of affairs and whereas we’re victims of the aggression, we wish not solely to outlive but to develop as a nation and tradition. Now is the time to seek out the companions for brand new initiatives to rebuild this method of gross sales in movies, in addition, to ship our viewpoint on the Ukrainian-Russian relationship. We don’t need anybody to say, ‘You’re small Ukrainians.’ We are mighty.”