For five years, the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov (Simféropol, 43 years old) lived in a prison in Labytnangui, a city of Russian autonomous district of Yamalia-Nenetsia, in Siberia, 6,000 kilometers from his house, with snow nine months a year and winters that reached -40 degrees. “The first years I was in a cell two by three meters,” he recalled yesterday in Berlin. Sentsov, little given to the fuss, except when he drops his hand on the table and causes the glasses to dance, he stretches his immense body in a gesture with which he remembers that zulo.
In the Berlinale presents in the Special section his film Numbers, shot with the instructions that the artist gave to his lawyer when he visited him in prison. Because of the arrest and subsequent trial, the activist Sentsov has devoured the Sentsov filmmaker, who had only directed a feature film, Gamers (2011), when on May 11, 2014 he was arrested, accused of terrorism by the Russian authorities, and immediately tried in a judicial farce, cHow did the documentary show? The Trial: The State of Russian vs Oleg Sentsov (2017).
The artist, born in Crimea, but with a family and Russian passport, became a benchmark of the AutoMaiden movement during the 2014 Crimean crisis, providing food and clothing to Protestants. He was an annoying guy. Neither international mobilization, nor the awarding of the Sakharov Prize, nor the campaigns of European filmmakers made the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, change his mind. Sentenced to 20 years, NTSOV entered a swap of 70 prisoners, 35 on the side, last September between Ukraine and Moscow, which allowed him to go free after landing in Kiev at the beginning of last September. Those days it was already known that his film was finished and that the Berlinale He planned to include it in his projections.
Sentsov has not raised his foot from the accelerator. On Tuesday he presented in a pre-contest pass Numbers, and went to Georgia, to return to the German capital on Friday morning. This Saturday I attended the world media and explained his vital intentions: “I was in Georgia because today civil rights activism is a fundamental part of my life,” he tells this EL PAÍS journalist and another from a German newspaper. “There are still more than 300 Ukrainians in Russian prisons and I am not going to stop until both they and the Ukrainian lands occupied by Russia are free.” Will that activity end the artist Sentsov? “Cinema will always be more important to my spirit, but I will not stop fighting until we know Putin’s defeat. And then I will dedicate myself only to the cinema ”.
In Numbers there is a theatrical style, since it encloses in a closed space ten people of all ages, who perform their daily life there. Not much else is known, and they are subject to absurd rules, marked by The Great Zero. Everything, metaphor of what happened in recent years in Eastern Europe, although the play on which it is based was written before the revolution in Ukraine. “In prison I wrote works, novels, stories … I wanted him to have that theatrical tone because otherwise the material would not have worked. It obviously serves to explain the influence of the former USSR, and that is why the slogans are written in Russian ”, and describes the process of creating Numbers: “I was able to communicate with some email, although above all it was through letters and photographs that my lawyer showed me by supporting them in the glass that separated us in the communication room in the prison. It was a hard, extensive process … and at the same time precise ”.
In that prison camp in Labytnangui, he insists, he never despaired: “I never thought that I would not roll again, at no time I thought I would not leave there. I always knew that one day they would release me. ” And for that he produced and produced: “I had to take care of myself. In prison it was easy to lose the sense of humor and the desire to write. Not sinking helped me read a lot, write more. Numbers It’s only a small part of what I created there. There are diaries, stories, novels, scripts … ”
Letters of support
Sentsov, blue jeans and blue fleece, look always directed at the translator (although he understands English), thanks international support, which led him to be a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. The filmmaker begins to release. “In Siberia I received some news of all that political and artistic support. I received 22 kilos of letters, and I took them all to Kiev. In prison these missives are more important than food, because when you are isolated they connect you with who you really are. ” And he enters political fields: “The further away the European countries from Ruia, the less they feel fear of Putin’s decisions. And they are wrong. Putin will never stop, as demonstrated by the occupation of the Crimean peninsula. Europeans do not understand that Putin poses an imminent danger. ”
In what sense? “Look, Putin not only has an ideological power, but directly controls many issues. He does it in many ways. We live a silent war between different secret services and there it is winning thanks to the Russian dominance of cyberterrorism. It has happened in Syria, in Africa and in Europe, where it supports any radical group. I saw it in Catalonia when I was in November and I could talk to people. The same thing happened in Crimea. ” This journalist asks the translator to punctuate Sentsov’s words well, and he interrupts to extend the answer: “Putin did not light the flame of radicalism in Catalonia, but do not be fooled, he will ensure that it does not go out.”
Are you optimistic about the future of Ukraine? “Realistic, neither pessimistic nor optimistic, although I believe in our final victory. We will be a united country, including Crimea, independent and democratic, with an eye on the West. And we will not live under Putin’s supremacy. ” And for that he defends a weapon: art. “For people to read, listen to music, watch movies, go to the theater … Culture and education improve people.”