Russia’s Rostov region located near the Ukrainian border is set to welcome a film crew in April to shoot a series about the Ukraine war. The regional authorities have shared the plans with residents of Rostov-on-Don and Azov to preempt any reports of a Ukrainian attack while the shooting is underway.
In particular, the Azov city administration warned residents that a film crew will be in the city on 5-15 April and will use pyrotechnics to imitate explosions.
“We would like to warn Azov residents about this fact and ask them to avoid spreading unverified information,” the official statement reads.
The working title of the series is 20/22. According to the official registry, the series will be produced by Bubblegum Production and Don-Cinema with the support of the Internet Development Institute.
According to the screenplay that was obtained by Novaya Gazeta Europe, 20/22 is a story of the first events of the “special military operation”, a label coined by the Russian authorities to avoid using the word “war”. Main characters are 22-year-old Daniil who served in radio-technical forces but now studies international relations in a prestigious Moscow university and 20-year-old Alisa, his girlfriend, who is studying to become a designer in a different university known for its liberal views.
“Their opinions on the special military operation are polar opposites. Daniil fully supports the operation, understanding that it is necessary. Alisa are completely opposed to it,” the description reads.
Writers send Alisa to Donbas to find her boyfriend and tell him that she is pregnant.
“After finding herself in the epicentre of the events, Alisa changes her view on the special military operation,”
the screenplay synopsis says.
The series will consist of four episodes and will particularly focus on the hostilities in Mariupol.
The series will be directed by Andrey Simonov, 38. Bubblegum Production is most known for its controversial series Sleepers that tells a story about so-called sleeper agents in the Russian liberal opposition ranks. After the final product was released, the director said that he had “betrayed the whole progressive generation that wanted to change something”.
Andrey Kretov, co-founder of Bubblegum Production, told Novaya-Europe that the series will not be similar to Crimea, a movie shot by Alexey Pimanov where the 2014 Crimea annexation events are shown through the prism of a relationship between a Kyiv journalist and a pro-Russian man from the peninsula.
“I hope this is the only similarity,” Kretov said. He claims that their interpretation of the Ukraine war is “completely neutral”.
“The story will be shown from two sides: Ukraine and Russia. The positions will be clearly outlined: what a regular army, the Ukrainian Armed Forces, nationalist battalions, and so on are. This is a huge difference that no one explains. You need to be there and speak to the people there to understand it,” the Bubblegum Production co-founder noted.
According to him, the shooting will also take place in Moscow and Mariupol in summer.
“Last year, we went to Mariupol, touched everything with our own hands, had a look, spoke to locals, doctors, and only then decided to go through with this project. Almost all characters are real people with real stories. The only invented characters are the main ones: the student and his girlfriend,” Kretov explains.
The series creators also want to roll out a shortened cinematic version. They refused to disclose the budget.
This is not Russia’s first attempt to take the Ukraine war to the screens. Reports emerged last autumn that shooting for a movie entitled Musician was underway in Russia’s Yaroslavl region. According to 76.ru, the film tells the story of violinist Daniel Cohen who was in Ukraine when the war broke out.
“The movie is directed with support from the Russian Culture Ministry and the Russian Defence Ministry,” 76.ru wrote.
However, the Musician film crew did not prepare as much for the shooting as their 20/22 counterparts: the Tver city authorities had to suspend shooting after military hardware with Ukrainian flags rocked up in the city which caused fear and panic among the locals. The Culture Ministry later reported that the production will resume but in a different location.