Cannes Fest 2022: Film Sector Rallies in Support of Ukraine

Film Sector Rallies in Support of Ukraine

From celebrities like Sean Penn and Angelina Jolie to Cannes dedicating a day to honor the besieged country, the global entertainment industry is playing a key role in maintaining awareness as the war enters its 13th week.



The war in Ukraine seems a world away from the red carpet glamour and high-profile deal making of the 75th Cannes Film Festival. But for many walking the Croisette this year, the brutality and destruction being wrought on the country since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion remain front and center, with the long-term consequences of the conflict still unknown.

“Our final days shooting Butterfly Vision were in the Donbass region in April 2021, the first time when a large number of Russian troops began gathering on the border,” says Ukrainian director Maksim Nakonechnyi of his Un Certain Regard title, the only Ukrainian feature film in Cannes’ official selection this year.

The documentary A Natural History of Destruction is getting a special screening in Cannes from Ukraine filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa.

“Our DCP digital cinema print delivered just a few days before they started bombing Kyiv. When the attacks started, and we were rushing to the underground, I called our postproduction coordinator, and he said, ‘Don’t worry, whatever happens, we’ve got a finished copy of the film.’”


U2's Bono and the Edge perform in a Kyiv subway station that serves as a bomb shelter

The struggle to complete Ukraine war documentary Mariupolis 2 — also Cannes special screening — was even more harrowing. Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius returned to the besieged Donbass region of Ukraine for a follow-up to his 2016 film. But in early April, he was captured and murdered by the Russian army in Mariupol. Kvedaravičius’ fiancée, Hanna Bilobrova, who co-directed the film and was with him at the time of his death, was able to get the footage out of the country and edit it in time for its premiere in Cannes.

Doing whatever it takes has become a credo among Ukrainian filmmakers, many of whom have chosen to stay in their homeland to fight on the frontlines or to document the war and its aftermath.

Support for Ukraine has come from all quarters of the film industry, whether it is celebrities like Sean Penn or Angelina Jolie visiting the war zone to focus the world’s attention on the conflict, or companies reaching out to producers and directors in Ukraine to help where they can.

“We’re acting as an independent film foundation, together with the Polish Film Academy and many Polish and European organizations, to support Ukrainian filmmakers, especially those documenting war in Ukraine,” says Violetta Kaminska of Poland’s Apple Film Productions, one of several European companies providing practical assistance for their colleagues across the border.

Nu Boyana, a film and TV backlot located in Sofia, Bulgaria and owned by The Expendables producer Millennium Media, is actively recruiting Ukrainian refugees and has organized a weekly job fair to find employment in the region for those looking to escape the war. Nu Boyana has more than a dozen Ukraine professionals — including makeup artists and assistant directors — working on productions like the Renny Harlin action film Bricklayer.

“We also have Ukrainians working basic jobs. My goal, if they’d like to stay and work at the studio, is to give them some training. Most of the people that came were women with children, and the main thing for them was, how do we get them day care for the kids?” says Nu Boyana CEO Yariv Lerner. “The situation transcends economics. Business will come and go, and it will do what it needs to do. Right now, it’s about helping our human family.”