Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov spent 5 years in a Russian jail for protesting towards the seizure of Crimea, and now he’s on the entrance line combating for revenge.
As a substitute of being behind a digital camera, the winner of the European Union’s Sakharov human rights prize signed up as a defence volunteer to battle again Moscow’s invasion.
“This combating just isn’t the way you think about it from the films,” mentioned Sentsov, sporting khaki camouflage and a beard protecting his beforehand clean-shaven face.
“Shut contact, taking pictures from small arms, there may be not a lot of it. More often than not that is artillery and your process is to carry the entrance line within the trenches, and to not die from the shelling.”
The 45-year-old coughs repeatedly from an sickness he says got here on throughout a break of some days from serving on the entrance towards Russian forces in freezing situations.
Sentsov was forging a profitable profession as an unbiased movie director when the Maidan protests in 2014 and Russia’s subsequent annexation of Crimea turned his life the wrong way up.
He wrote and directed his first movie Gamer in 2011 on a finances of simply $20,000, and on the time of his arrest in 2014 was planning to make one other movie, Rhino.
Convicted of planning arson assaults, he was despatched to a penal colony within the Russian Arctic the place he staged a 145-day starvation strike, throughout which he misplaced 30kg (66 kilos) earlier than his launch in 2019.
Leaning towards a barricade, Sentsov mentioned his lengthy years behind bars in Russia had proven him that Moscow wouldn’t be glad with simply taking Crimea.
“A few of my associates after I used to be launched from the captivity would say, ‘Oh, you’re so radical, hating Russians, they aren’t so unhealthy,’” mentioned the filmmaker.
“However now they perceive me, as a result of I spent 5 years there. I noticed how they deal with Ukrainians, Europeans, with their imperial ambitions, their cruelty.”
The director had no hesitation becoming a member of as much as battle when Russia’s President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
“From the primary days of conflict, I joined the Territorial Defence,” he mentioned, including he spent two weeks manning checkpoints on the outskirts of the capital.
However he was then pushed as much as the “first line of defence” alongside army items within the forests in an undisclosed location outdoors Kyiv.
Russia “made a Vietnam” for the Ukrainian forces with intense barrages of shelling and rocket hearth that they resisted, mentioned Sentsov.
However he mentioned with Moscow’s forces making an attempt to push on with their stalled offensive and encircle the Ukrainian capital, the combating will get even heavier.
“If the offensive begins in our route, we would be the first line to cease it and there will likely be extra shut fight,” he mentioned.
For now, the promising movie directing profession that noticed Sentsov’s motion pictures screened at European movie festivals appears a good distance off.
“I’m not filming now. To start with, there isn’t any time. Second of all, I don’t want to,” he mentioned.
Ukrainian officers provided him work within the press workplace “due to my well-known title, however this was not my path. My path is one in all a easy soldier”.
Sentsov mentioned he acquired letters of assist, together with from the European Movie Academy and Ukrainian filmmakers, “however now through the wartime it doesn’t matter if you’re a filmmaker or a bus driver or a easy employee – we’re all troopers”.
However he hopes to return to filmmaking someday. “I’m not certain what sort of film I’ll make. I had already written many scripts earlier than the conflict. Maybe I’ll give you some concepts right here,” he mentioned.
For now, nevertheless, he’ll proceed to view the conflict by way of a rifle sight as an alternative of a digital camera viewfinder.
“I lived totally different lives, my life modified, my exercise modified. Filmmaking is just one a part of my life. Now my life is the place I consider it to be most useful to my nation,” mentioned Sentsov.