Film depicting Vladimir Putins 2014 annexing of Crimea from Ukraine will only be shown in Russia and Belarus
This is the kind of decision that is only taken once a century, says a voice on the trailer for Crimea, a high-budget Russian film that dramatises the 2014 Russian takeover of the peninsula.
The film, which will premiere across Russia next month, features Russian soldiers, tanks, planes and a love story the director describes as a Romeo and Juliet tale.
The Russian annexation of the territory from Ukraine, which led to sanctions and a fallout between Moscow and the west, was denounced internationally as illegal. In Russia, however, the annexation has been portrayed as the event which showed that the country is again a global power, after a long period of humiliation following the Soviet collapse.
Crimea, the movie, brings that pride to the screen. The film follows a romantic liaison between a young woman from Kiev, who is a supporter of the pro-European Maidan uprising, and a man from Sevastopol who joins the pro-Russian resistance in the aftermath of Maidans success in Kiev.
The director, Alexei Pimanov, said the film is dedicated to the Ukrainian and Russian officers who did not shoot at each other and avoided large-scale bloodshed during the Russian takeover. We wanted to make a film about how we have to love each other and not kill each other, he said.
Pimanov said after helping his daughter-in-laws family to evacuate from Luhansk, which has been hit by fighting between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces, he wanted to make a film about how the Russian intervention in Crimea prevented bloodshed there.
In Ukraine and elsewhere, however, the film is likely to be viewed as a glorification of the Russian annexation. Critics of Russia would say that the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine occurred primarily because Russia funnelled weapons and troops across the border.
The film will not be shown in Ukraine, where Pimanov has been persona non grata since 2014, placed on a sanctions list that includes Russian journalists and artists who Kiev believes to be propagandists. Indeed, the film is unlikely to be released anywhere outside Russia except for Belarus. The Ukrainian embassy in that country sent a note of protest to the Belarusian foreign ministry earlier this month after trailers for the film were shown in cinemas in the country.
Pimanov insisted that the film is not crude propaganda, and said the female heroine was a sympathetic character and a genuine supporter of the goals of the Maidan protests in Kiev. However, it is clear that the film takes a Russian perspective on the events of March 2014, with some of the funding coming from Russias ministry of defence. Indeed, Pimanov knows the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, personally, and said the initial idea for the film was his.
We were talking in March 2014 and realised these events were globally important. He said: Try to make a film about this. Shoigu helped by providing planes and other military hardware used in the film, he said.
After the annexation of Crimea, Vladimir Putins approval ratings, which had been flagging, soared to an all-time high of 86% as the country was consumed by a wave of nationalistic fervour. Krym nash (Crimea is ours) became a frequently repeated slogan, and the return of Crimea, as it is referred to in Russia, has been used to show that the country can stand up for its interests on the international stage.