Our industry has suffered a lot through the war : Ukrainian Producer Larrisa Gutarevich

Excerpts from the interview with Larrisa Gutarevich, Independent Producer, Ukrainian Film Industry. The interview took place on May 22 in the Ukrainian Pavilion, Marche du Film, Cannes.

Rupak: Congratulations for your presence in the festival and for representing Ukrainian film industry during ongoing national crisis. Are you still living in the country?

Larrisa: Yes, I am still in the country. I am originally from Kyiv. I left Kyiv during the early days of war, but I made the decision of not leaving my country. 

We were anticipating that the war might come, but you are never ready for bombing in the middle of the night! I have a daughter, she is adult, one week before the war she said; ‘Mom what will we do if the war comes?’ I said, ok, let’s prepare some food, think through about where we could go in the moment (if) the war comes! 

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On the 24th of February, around 4:30 AM in the morning, my daughter woke me up; it took me 10 minutes to realize the truth. The feeling was it can’t be a reality! You know I am a woman; I have a daughter, I cannot do anything in front of the soldiers, they are not human! It took me a few moments to take the decision, get the car and drive! We went to the western part of Ukraine. We are still there.

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Rupak: As you were saying, the film industry of Ukraine is deeply affected by the war. How do you see the industry recovering? How are you and your colleagues addressing the problem?

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Larrisa: Yes, the Ukrainian industry has suffered a lot. We have remarkable professionals and skilled artists with different expertise; but they are unable to work under such circumstances. I was talking to a few of my colleagues from the industry who are now in military; for them it is obvious that they will fight for Ukraine! Some people managed to get out of the country, and they are struggling to find work in foreign nations. But, we still have some projects under production; we are trying to find new sources of funding as we do not have any domestic budget for now.

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Rupak: We have historically seen film makers emerge from war torn countries with life changing features and documentaries in the past. Do you see cinema as a means of alleviating Ukrainian national identity during such times of crisis? 

Larrisa: Well, for now we are trying to make a few documentaries based on filmed evidence of the invasion. They reflect the current situation of my country. I know that a lot of my colleagues are making such documentaries and we will be able to see them in the nearest future. Additionally, a lot of foreign journalists, who came to the country for shooting, have been provided support to the best of our capabilities.

But feature will take time. We need to win the war at first, and then give some time to our film makers to analyse the post effects and to bring out the stories. I know that our work force is very smart and very creative, and they will find ways of showing the world-  the truth. 

Personally, I had a historical movie in production, starting from the Pagan times, but we had to change substantial parts of it under the current circumstances. I have some financial backing from my American business partner. 

Rupak: What does the Ukrainian pavilion represent this year? What are your expectations from the festival?

Larrisa: We are trying to reach the European and International audience with our message. There are films under production which need support. Professionals need work. We are trying for our artists to find work mainly in the UK, as most of us speak English. It is difficult for them to find work in Italy or France due to language problems. For us working with pre or postproduction, we can work online but we still need orders, contracts, support in production, support in financing, and things like these. We are completely open for the world. We are professionals, we love to work. I would like to produce films; I would like my people to work. 

Rupak: Thanks a lot for your candid answers Lara. Before we finish, will you like to say anything for your Indian readers and audience?

Larrisa: Yes. You know if we go deep inside our roots, we will find things in common; because when I go through our traditions, I find real similarities. I would love to invite all our Indian colleagues for collaboration, to mutually develop interesting stories together. Let us work together, 

Stand with Ukraine. Be brave like Ukraine!

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