The Czech Film Commission, the body that promotes the Czech Republic to the international world, had its website hacked last week by Russian hackers. Speaking at a roundtable discussion hosted by the Odesa Film Festival at Karlovy Vary’s Industry Days section, Czech Film Commission head Pavlina Zipkova told delegates that its website was recently targeted by Russian hackers after it posted an article on its website highlighting the Czech Republic as being a safe place to shoot.
Zipkova said that the Czech Republic is “ready to help [Ukrainian filmmakers] but a virus from Russia” targeted the site after publication of this article. Hackers infiltrated the website leaving one small sentence saying,“f**k, u ve been hacked!” on a white page. An independent IT company was able to trace it back to a Russian hacking program designed to take down pages that would feature words or sentences that could be linked to pro-Ukraine sentiments.
In the article on the site, it highlighted the Czech Republic’s situation in light of the war in Ukraine, emphasizing that the Czech Republic was a member of the European Union and NATO and is distanced from the Russian federation. It highlighted that the Central European country remained a safe place for international productions to come and shoot projects.
The Czech Republic has a history of supporting and working with Ukrainian filmmakers and many of co-productions that were in motion before the war started, have now stopped. The country has taken in more than 300,000 Ukraine refugees and it’s increasingly known that as Russian president Vladimir Putin continues to invade Ukraine, he will be looking to gain influence across the Eastern bloc.
The Czech Film Commission’s website is back up but Zipkova told Deadline that its “an expensive mess” and it will take a while to get the site properly back in order.
Elsewhere in the roundtable discussion, panelists from a range of Central and Eastern European backgrounds discussed at length the impact of the war in Ukraine and its effects on the international film industry. Additional particpants included: German Films’ managing director Simone Baumann; Masterfilm’s Dagmar Sedláčková; docu producer Daria Bassel of Moonman; VFS Films’ Uldis Cekulis; and Directory Films Igor Savychenko.
German Films’ managing director Simone Baumann, who is an experienced co-producer and one of Europe’s leading experts on Russia, the former Eastern Bloc and their audiovisual markets, said that shooting in Ukraine has been difficult since 2014, when Russia invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.
“It’s not too much of a problem now to find a job for Ukrainian filmmakers on some international or German projects,” she said. “The bigger problem is the future of Ukraine films and their own projects. How will they get them financed?”
Baumann stressed that there was “no point” talking about Russian co-productions at the moment and that the situation in Ukraine was “completely unacceptable.” She encouraged delegates to look elsewhere for co-productions in the region.
“There is no point working with Russian filmmakers unless they are clear against leaving the war and leaving the country,” she said.
Baumann pointed to a funding crisis as being the driving issue facing the Ukrainian filmmaking community going forward.
“It’s not a secret that Ukraine doesn’t have any money,” she said. “I have my doubts that in 2023 the Ukrainian Film Institute will be able to open its funding programs so we all need to think about that.”
Ukrainian producer Bassel expressed her fear that “we won’t be able to engage in projects” and indicated that if European films come to shoot in Ukraine without the country safeguarding its local industry, the film industry in Ukraine runs the risk of becoming “service producers.”
“This is problem because we’ve been fighting for that and we’ve been fighting for justice in the international market and to be heard,” she told delegates. “That fight lasted for several years.”
When queried about calls to boycott Russian art and films in the international arena, Bassel said insisted that “Russian culture and particularly Russian films have to be suspended.”
She passionately compared the situation to the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements: “People reacted aggressively to these movements. White men weren’t satisfied that woman had to be in the spotlight and then there was the White Lives Matter [backlash] too. The other side is always unsatisfied but we know we have to support groups that have been oppressed. It’s basically the same thing.”