Red carpet battle as Ukrainians and Russians fall out over Oscar nominations –

Oscar is entering a Russian-Ukrainian geopolitical minefield.

Among the five films shortlisted by the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for best documentary this year are “A House Made of Splinters,” one about anti-Russian figure Alexei Navalny and another about a war-torn eastern Ukrainian orphanage. of the country.

While neither film will warm the heart of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the competition between the two has fueled conflict between Ukrainians and anti-Russians.

“Ukraine has been invaded by Russia and hundreds of thousands have been killed by the Russian army, millions have been driven from their homes. Therefore, I understand the reaction to a film that focuses on the fate of a single – Russian – person,” Navalny said. said Bulgarian investigative journalist Christo Grozev, who was in the film. “That’s why I will never start an argument with Ukrainians who are upset about the film being nominated for an Oscar.”

“Navalny,” directed by Canadian filmmaker Daniel Rohr and produced by HBO Max and CNN Films, tells the story of the opposition leader who led a growing political movement against Putin, was nearly killed by a nerve agent and then returned to Moscow despite threats. Arrested, he is now imprisoned in a Russian prison. The movie touches on Navalny’s nationalist views and his alliance with far-right forces, but it does little for Ukrainians upset by Navalny’s stance on the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

At the time he condemned Putin’s annexation as a “flagrant violation of all international norms” but added that the peninsula would not return to Ukraine. “Is Crimea a sandwich or something you can take and put back? I don’t think so,” he told Eko Moskvi Radio.

But his political leanings have not stopped a wave of support for his courage in standing up to Putin.

“Navalny” received widespread recognition, distribution on HBO Max, a poster in Times Square and praise from Hollywood stars. Actor Hugh Jackman endorsed the movie in a video recommendation Tweet

“This is a documentary about a man who is literally risking his life every day,” Jackman said.

However, Ukrainians, deeply hurt by the ongoing Russian offensive, see the documentary as an attempt to whitewash Navalny, who is accused of being a Russian nationalist despite his opposition to Putin.

Tetiana Shevchuk, a lawyer at the Anti-Corruption Action Center, complained that Navalny’s supporters were pushing for his release, but did little to protest the war.

“They were silent on the war for 11 months, but now with the Oscars on the horizon, they became more active and emulated the anti-war movement. If the Academy gives them an award, it will be another tone-deaf gesture,” Shevchuk said.

Questioning Navalny’s credentials could provoke outrage.

Maria Pevchikh, who heads Navalny’s team of anti-corruption investigators and one of the documentary’s producers, declined to answer POLITICO’s questions about it, saying they were offensive and unprofessional.

However, Pevchikh is scathing about allegations that Navalny and his supporters are pusillanimous around the war in order not to risk offending nationalist Russians.

“Is that why Navalny’s supporters have been talking about the war to an almost entirely Russian audience of ten million people on a specially created channel since the first day of the war? Without interruption for a day? Obviously this is a clever attempt on our part not to lose their audience,” he said Tweeted.

Less publicized but still visible

“House Made of Splinters,” a co-production between Denmark, Ukraine, Sweden and Finland, tells the story of children in a special orphanage in the eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk just before Russia’s full-scale invasion last year; The city is now a field of rubble and occupied by Russia.

“All the children are safe now. They have been evacuated abroad. And their teachers have been internally displaced to other regions of Ukraine. So, they are also relatively safe,” said Azad Safarov, assistant director of the film. “However, the particular orphanage was destroyed after the missile attack.”

Splinters received strong reviews and recognition at film festivals last year, but it made less of a splash than “Navalny,” said Daria Basel of Moon Man Production Studio, a Ukrainian co-producer of the film.

“For example, the film doesn’t have an American distributor. So, the result – an Oscar nomination – indicates that the film really influenced academics and maybe they recommended each other to see the film, and thus the film got nominated,” says Bassel, calling it: “Word of mouth radio.”

Asked what he thought of the Navalny documentary competing for the same award, Basel said everyone fights for what’s important to them. For him, it is important to talk about Ukraine and how the ruins of Russia’s war live in his country.

“I don’t want us to sit down at the table with the Russian opposition and push for a dialogue,” Bassel said.

Navalny’s opinion

In “Navalny,” Russia investigator Grozev, led by the Netherlands-based investigative journalism group Bellingcat, helps the opposition leader find out who tried to kill him by putting the Novichok nerve agent in his underwear.

However, Grozev initially had significant reservations about Navalny due to his past public statements on Crimea, his views on Russia, and more.

“I asked about him from many Russian colleagues who have an unabashedly liberal, non-imperialist worldview, and they all felt that he had evolved from an opportunistic populist into a staunch democrat with liberal democratic values,” Grozev said.

The journalist spent the day debating politics with Navalny, concluding that he was quite mainstream and not imperialistic. According to Grozev, nowadays Navalny thinks that Russia should be decentralized, that the power of the president should be reduced to a minimum, and that a successful Ukraine would be a competitive benchmark for Russia.

But Crimea remains a sore point; Navalny cannot break the overwhelming view among his countrymen of all political opinions that the peninsula cannot simply be returned to Ukraine.

“We had many arguments with him about his views on Crimea. Although I never agree with his point of view, I must admit that it is very different from what many anti-Navalny activists now claim,” Grozev said.

According to him, Navalny still sees the annexation of Crimea as a serious violation of international law. But now that it has happened, Russia and Ukraine should sit down and prepare a long-term plan to give residents the right to decide which nation they want to belong to – after both countries’ “advertisement campaigns” and UN-controlled periods. Ukrainians, however, have warned that the idea of ​​independence makes no sense as more than 800,000 have fled Crimea since annexation by Russian colonists.

“In my opinion, Navalny and his anti-corruption team are now doing everything they can to stop the war — including screaming against the war at every court hearing, writing anti-imperialist and anti-war op-eds that could get him more punishment. , and his organization pays fines for anti-war demonstrations and runs a separate full-time anti-war TV channel,” Grozev said.

“Unfortunately, none of this has led to mass protests in Russia, and I fully understand the feeling of many Ukrainians that all Russians bear collective guilt for not doing enough to stop this brutality,” he added.