Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
We communicated with a representative of independent American cinema — the interlocutor of EADaily is the producer and director Igor Lopatonok. Being a part of the Directors Guild of America, Igor, as a producer, has already 20 completed movies on his account. At the beginning of this year a lot of attention was drawn to the documentary “Ukraine on Fire”, filmed by him together with Oliver Stone and also shown on Russian television. For the western viewer this movie also became a revelation: many people learned from this film about the background to the events that flipped life in Ukraine upside down almost four years ago…
Enough time already passed since the premiere of your movie “Ukraine on Fire”. Did the Kiev authorities try to somehow annoy you, to make you pay for releasing the film that is so unfavourable for them?
“They, perhaps, would like to— but their arms are short (laughs). What can they do to a US citizen living and working in this country and who doesn’t visit Ukraine? As is said, you can even beat me up in my absence, I don’t mind. Yes, I was told that my name was entered on some Ukrainian websites with lists of ‘enemies of the people’ — but this fuss isn’t interesting to me. Especially as I appear on these lists in the quite good company of famous artists, and by no means only Russian ones. For example, my friend and colleague, the world famous director Oliver Stone, with who I did the movies ‘Ukraine on Fire’ and ‘Snowden’, is considered by the current Kiev authorities as ‘the enemy of the people’ too. And if Kiev even tried to somehow cause harm to us in the US — although such attempts are absolutely senseless — we just would use it as additional publicity for our movie. However, even without it, our film attracted considerable attention, it is available at all digital outlets, copies on Blu-Ray and DVD sell well, it was shown on TV channels in Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Brazil, Israel, Japan, Canada, and also here in the US. That’s why I consider that we completely fulfilled our task with ‘Ukraine on Fire’. It is still actively watched, the movie has spectator demand. Well, and the Ukrainian authorities actively ‘help’ us with this. They, by their actions, over and over again prove that we were right — they were brought to power not by the will of the mass voter, but by an armed coup.”
I.e., you still follow the events in Ukraine?
“Of course I follow. By the way, the current events in Kiev – all this notorious ‘Mikhomaidan’ – are perceived as very funny. It isn’t said without reason that historical events tend to repeat themselves, but already in a slightly different form — tragedy is followed by farce. I laughed, watching on television news how the current Maidan activists bear the poster with the inscription: ‘We have come to carry you goats out’ [in other words, to remove Poroshenko & Co from power; the original authors of this slogan didn’t use a comma, thus the phrase can be interpreted by a layperson in different ways – for example, where the ‘goats’ are the protestors themselves, and not the junta. This is why the phrase causes amusement – ed]. Indeed, it is some ‘revolution of goats’, it’s impossible to call it differently… The old Soviet animated film ‘In the Country of Unlearned Lessons’ sprung to mind. The lack of a general culture or basic literacy leads to those tragicomic phenomena that today’s Ukraine isn’t tired of ‘pleasing’ us with. To live, heaven forbid, in a country where coup attempts, street riots, and ruthless violence repeat with such regularity. The present Ukrainian authorities began with promising people ‘freedom’, while in reality they took away at least to some degree an acceptable standard of living, a sense of stability and security and, in fact, civil liberties from the population.”
Are you going to once again return to the Ukrainian topic in your works? Events there happen at a kaleidoscopical speed, a lot of new picturesque materials constantly appear…
“Yes, many different things happen there, but now it is interesting, mainly, only for Ukrainians. The topic of Ukraine, frankly speaking, has long become tedious for the average inhabitant. But I am not going to completely say goodbye to this topic: we continue to record facts, we collect some things, and gradually we film … There are no concrete plans to create a ‘Ukraine on Fire 2’ yet, but never say never. If it seriously blazes again there, then I and all my team are ready to get down to business. However, we already did a lot so that the western audience understands what happened in this unfortunate country. I think that like any other movie that Oliver Stone put his mark on, ‘Ukraine on Fire’ will still serve for many years as a ‘textbook’ of certain political processes.”
Are you able to say that your movie indeed opened the eyes of people to the Ukrainian situation?
“Generally, the progressive, thinking part of the audience guessed it already without us, but people just lacked knowledge of facts. That’s why, maybe, we helped many to make their understanding clearer, having acquainted them with indisputable facts. But for some ‘Ukraine on Fire’ became a real revelation. Although, of course, to completely change somebody’s outlook having watched one and only one movie is, in my opinion, nevertheless impossible. Of course, there were attempts to assign blame to us because ‘Ukraine on Fire’ is supposedly similar to the Russian information mainstream. But it doesn’t mean that we indulge in the notorious ‘Russian propaganda’, it only means that the press of the Russian Federation reflects a picture closer to the truth than the western one. We, unlike the western media, aren’t going to manipulate information and don’t desire, for example, to call radical Nazi groups ‘freedom fighters’.”
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