Kirill Serebrennikov uses Cannes press conference to speak out against prosecution of fellow artists

Kirill Serebrennikov in Cannes, France, 20 May 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE/ANDRE PAIN

Kirill Serebrennikov in Cannes, France, 20 May 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE/ANDRE PAIN

Film director Kirill Serebrennikov appeared with a photo of two fellow artists facing lengthy jail sentences in his native Russia at a press conference for the première of his film Limonov: The Ballad at the Cannes Film Festival in France on Monday.

Serebrennikov expressed support for theatre director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk, both of whom have been held in custody since last May, after being detained and charged with “justifying terrorism” for Berkovich’s production of Petriychuk’s play Finist, the Brave Falcon.

The play, which tells the true stories of several Russian women who married radical Islamists they met online and moved to Syria, was found to have “glorified terrorists” by making them appear “interesting and attractive to girls and women” while portraying Russian men in a negative light, according to a report on the play written for Russia’s Federal Security Service.

Russia’s financial watchdog Rosfinmonitor added Berkovich and Petriychuk to the government’s list of terrorists and extremists in April. Serebrennikov rejected the charges against them. “They did nothing wrong. All they did was stage a play. … Zhenya [Berkovich] is mother to two adopted daughters,” he added.

On Monday, a Moscow court began considering their case. At the hearing, both defendants denied their guilt and stressed to the court that they felt only revulsion for terrorism. They face up to seven years in prison if found guilty.

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