Ukrainian Filmmaker Oleh Sentsov Meets With Czech Republic President Ahead of ‘Real’ World Premiere

Petr Pavel, President of the Czech Republic, met with Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov Sunday ahead of the world premiere of Sentsov’s documentary “Real” at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

Sentsov was joined at the meeting by Mike Downey, chair of the European Film Academy and one of the film’s producers, and Veronika Velch, Sentsov’s wife, head of Amnesty International in Ukraine, and an associate producer on the film.

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The screening of “Real” was attended by Viggo Mortensen, who received the Festival President’s Award at the start of the festival, and also presented “The Dead Don’t Hurt,” which he wrote and directed, at the event.​ Mortensen recently visited Ukraine to attend the Mykolaichuk Open Film Festival in Chernivtsi.

Sentsov is currently serving as a lieutenant in the Ukrainian army, which he joined in the first days of the Russian invasion in February 2022. “Real,” described as an “accidental” film, is entirely comprised of footage Sentsov shot in a trench in Ukraine’s Donbas region after a nearby unit was ambushed by Russian forces.

Speaking after the meeting, Pavel told Variety that Sentsov hadn’t made any requests for additional assistance for Ukraine from the Czech Republic. “He only appreciated that we are doing our best, especially when it comes to the ammunition initiative and also continued support on bilateral and multilateral fora. We will continue that support because we believe that it is crucially important for us as it is for Ukraine.”

Pavel, a former army general, said he hadn’t seen Sentsov’s film but he’d read about its content. He added: “And since I know the situation on the battlefield in general but also on the battlefield in Ukraine I can imagine how powerful such a display of ordinary life in Ukraine looks like.

“But I believe that displaying the reality in such a brutal form will be a strong message to all those who believe that war in Ukraine is kind of a movie.”

Downey told Variety: “We had a wide ranging conversation not just about Ukraine, but about the shifting world order around Putin and his ‘friendly’ satellites. Petr Pavel went out of his way to demonstrate his unshakeable support for Ukraine, and as a soldier empathized with Oleh’s situation as a front-line warrior. Sentsov brought the ex-soldier a gift – the Ukrainian flag badge from his own uniform, and the President was visibly moved at the gesture.”

Asked about the supply of ammunition to Ukraine from its European allies, Pavel said: “When you compare the capabilities of Russia and Ukraine, it’s quite clear that Ukraine is in a clear disadvantage: [in terms of] the size of population, resources, both financial and material. Without our support, Ukraine would definitely fail.

“And failure for Ukraine would mean that Russia would be encouraged in their way of pursuing international policy and that would be dangerous to all of us because an assertive and more aggressive Russia would mean it would be much more expensive for us in the future.”

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