While Ukrainian filmmakers have called out international festivals such as Cannes and Karlovy Vary for the inclusion of Russian titles in their lineups, Liev Schreiber, who has Ukrainian roots stemming from his maternal grandfather, admits he “struggles” with the idea of boycotting art of any kind.
“I struggle with the idea of boycotting any kind of art or expression,” Schreiber told journalists at a press conference at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on Saturday. “Having said that, the reason that I believe, and everyone always asked me why I think Ukraine is going to win, is because I believe that they are going to come out of this eventually on the right side of history. And I believe that because they have the truth on their side.”
Schreiber, who was in town to discuss his initiative BlueCheck Ukraine, stressed that what is most in play right now is truth in the media, saying that “misinformation has become a dangerous new idea in both America and abroad and I think that is something that Putin is counting on – chaos and misinformation.”
The actor-director said, “We do have to be careful with media and we do have to be careful about what we consume. But the idea of ever censoring or boycotting artists is something that is hard for me, and I feel challenged by because one of the things I love about our constitution is that it protects free speech. Certainly, one of the things I love about being in the arts is that there is the idea of, ‘if it’s true, it’s worth knowing.’ So, I think we have to be very careful about the media coming out of Russia since it’s so state-controlled or film for that matter or the propaganda coming out of Russia right now.”
Last week, several leading Ukrainian filmmakers including Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk (Pamfir), Maksym Nakonechnyi (Butterfly Vision) and Valentin Vasyanovych (Reflection) penned a letter to the long-running Czech festival for the inclusion of Russian title Captain Volkonogov Escaped in its Horizons sidebar. The festival’s president Jirí Bartoška, executive director Kryštof Mucha and artistic director Karel Och all denied that the film distracts the international community from war crimes committed in Ukraine and rather was “an indirect, but very distinct criticism of the current Russian state regime.”
Schreiber, who was last in Karlovy Vary in 2004 to talk about his then-upcoming Czech-filmed directorial debut Everything Is Illuminated, talked at length on Saturday about BlueCheck Ukraine. He co-founded the network, which vets humanitarian aid organizations for Ukraine as well as acting as a financial conduit to transmit donations, with law firm Ropes & Gray and consultancy firm IntegrityRisk (both operating pro-bono).
“There is this perception of the Eastern Block that it’s dangerous to donate and that there’s corruptions and you don’t know where your money is going,” he said. “My idea was that we find a way to cut through all of that.”
Schreiber said his Ukrainian grandfather has had a remarkable impact on his life and, off the back of this, he felt inspired to do something to help the country as it continues to be ravaged by war.
“It could be argued that pretty much everything that I’ve done in my career, in some way or another, was inspired or drawn from something of [my grandfather’s] life,” Schreiber said. “And so when the invasion began, I began thinking about what it meant to be Ukrainian and to be honest, I have absolutely no idea, particularly when I see men my age who are graphic designers or stonemasons or artists hugging their children and saying goodbye to their wives and picking up guns and preparing to fight in a war in which they are vastly outnumbered and outgunned and not knowing whether they’ll ever see their families again.”
Journalists were shown footage of Schreiber’s recent time in Ukraine where he spoke directly to organizations such as Kidsave, which has helped children and orphans to flee Ukraine safely, and Lviv National Philharmonic, which is currently acting as an aid organization. The video of the latter drew the actor-director to tears.
“Ukrainians are already incredibly resourceful and they’re doing a great job taking care of themselves,” he said. “They just need our support. They need our resources. They need our money. They need our attention, and they need for you guys to remember them and that they want to be a part of our community, the global community, the European community and the democratic community. But they’re doing an amazing job.”
Here’s the link to BlueCheck Ukraine.