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Interview with Filmmaker Igor Parfenov

Hi Igor, thank you for this interview. We are glad to have your film onboard our competition during this very difficult times for Ukraine, and the Ukrainian people, we would like to start with a few things about you. 

Thank you for this interview as well, 26 years ago I created a public organization for human rights and animal protection. I held hundreds of actions,demonstrations, conferences published the pacifist magazine Scream, concerning anti-war, human rights, and animal protection articles by Voltaire, LeoTolstoy, and others. Later I organized the Human Rights Film Festival “Steps”
which lasted 8 years.

In parallel, and  since2004, I started making my own films as a director and screenwriter. My films were social dramas dedicated to the protection of animals. Since 2013, my feature films began to “scream” about modern Ukraine. The first one was a feature film about the Maidan and was released under two titles:“Maidan” and “Once Upon a Time in Ukraine”

The script was written by me a few months before the start of the Maidan and was filmed right on the barricades, and  Crimea. The film became prophetic and many things came true, including the mass execution. After this film, there were 5more features and 8 short films. Among them: Manifesto, After the Revolution, Once Upon a Time in Ukraine War, and others.

What was your motivation to make Ukraine on Fire? Tell us about it. 

I knew that this military conflict was inevitable and hit the alarm through my paintings... I wrote the script for the film “Ukraine in Fire” a few months before February 24, so once again ther film
shout: STOP!


We started filming a few weeks before the war. And my wife shot the last scenes, clutching our five-year-old child with one hand, and holding the camera with the other, the very moment when fighters flew above our  heads.


How difficult was it to produce the film in the middle of the war literally? 

I am accustomed with making my films often in extreme conditions. To give you an example we were shooting  the Bullfightings in Pamplona, when I decided to enter the arena without permission, and shot a very cruel footage for the documentary “Farewell to Corrida”.

Same with the documentary  Maidan, when I shot a staged scene with artificial blood between two barricades. Then I almost lost the camera and all the material,as the film was considered  provocative. There were much more dangerouss shootings I can't talk about becuse I wouldn't like to let project participants down.

Why would you consider Ukraine on Fire an anti war film? 

Once LevTolstoy wrote an article titled “Patriotism or Peace”, prooving that  patriotism  leads to
war. He knew that the majority would not understand him, however, he spoke about it.


Not everyone will like my film either, but I don’t strive for my films to give everyone pleasure. I put questions, make you think, cry, sometimes,  get shock, but my goal is always the same the improvement of a person.

What is the message you want to convey via Ukraine on Fire? 

There are no hidden messages in my work. Everything is obvious even to a child, that the world deserves better than war, that the best battle is the one that is prevented, and,most importantly, I was always interested not in the disposition of troopsor showing  battles, but under the influence of what feeling,what emotions one soldier kills another.

Every war in human history has started for a reason or at least according to the politicians, and the decision makers, what is your opinion about the reason behind this war? 

Now everyone is talking about why this invasion happened and the reasons lie on the surface. I want to expose the problem of wars that were, are and will be. Now I often hear about the
dehumanization of man, and at the same time I want to ask an important question:

Has the “Humanization of Man” passed? Yes, the rapid growth of scientific and technological progress is evident, but is the person himself, his morality, ethics, and humanity changing? Yes, the state power is increasingly clamping down on its subject, in the grip of laws, in fact, we are still dressed in animal skins, and even if it’s not someone’s skin, but  its replassed by silk, I still see a hairless monkey through its ransparency, that is still a savage. 


And the endless wars of many millennia confirm this. Is the monkey to blame for its  origin and inclination, you would  ask? The monkey is not, but the man is, because he is capable of improvement.

Do you believe that the people of Ukraine would need to hate the Russian people for this war or not?

When I see the funeral of another Ukrainian child lying in a coffin, my emotions are always the same - it is hate and rage. But this hate extends to the direct and indirect perpetrators of this one, and other crimes, that the war has brought, ranging from the state machine and  its propaganda apparatus, to military commanders, and the perpetrators themselves those who throw bombard, launch rockets, and pull the trigger.


And despite the fact that all these military people are following orders, nevertheless, they all took up arms and went to a foreign independent country to seize its territory and kill defenseless civilians. And all of them can and should be hated by the Ukrainian people.

What percentage of Russian people are against this war, unfortunately, not a single opinion poll will tell. This is because many are intimidated and will not answer objectively.

I think that  a quite  large volume of Russian people  are against this war, and every day there will be more of them. And the more people see alternative sources of information, the more consciously with an element of critical thinking they will begin to relate to their "non-participation" and understanding of their own moral guilt will grow. Legal guilt should only apply to those guilty of crimes. I consider it wrong and  non  productive to impose collective responsibility on the entire country as this would cause a backlash that would  attach  people around the current government.

As for Russian classical literature, which is removed from the curriculum in schools, and these are more than 40 writers and poets, many of whom are world classics. This is a huge mistake from the end  of the Ukrainian authorities. The first such fatal mistake or deliberate provocation. The fight against the Russian language in Ukraine began 8 years ago. It is impossible to break through the knee the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine and its ability to study in schools  their native language. This is a disastrous path that splits society and P. Poroshenko became the initiator of these actions.

If you had the option to meet president Zelenskyy what would you tell him? 

I would ask himif he did everything in order to avoid this war? Is the price that Ukraine will pay
too much and what happened would not happen if:

1. Ukraine announced its neutral status and refused to make attempts to joinNATO;
2. Ukraine fulfilled the Minsk agreements;
3. Ukraine gave water to its people in the occupied Crimea;
4. The authorities would cease to crack the people according to a linguistic preference, the refusal of most of the Russian -speaking population and their rights;
5. The authorities would be pursued according to the law of people for calls to war.


Yes, there were few such provocateurs and they did it, in my opinion, because of money, savagery, and someone under the false, destructive for the country, patriotic feelings, and I have no doubt, their activity was approved and supported,by unfortunately, not just the Kremlin.

What about president Putin? What would you tell him for the same reason? 


I would ask why the great writer of the Russian land, the author of the “War and Peace” Leo Tolstoy, was horrified by his forecasts regarding the future  of Russia and the actions of their leaders.


I quote a phrase from an article about state power from1905: “After all, this is terrible! Terribly the main thing, because if this crazy war ends, then tomorrow the fantasy of a ruling person can create  a new African,American, Indian project, and will begin to stretch out the last forces from the Russian people again, and drive them to kill to the other end of the world.

Why are you so predictable? 

Do you believe that art unites people? Is it the ticket for a better world? 

Yes, of course, art unites people there's no doubt, and only through art humanity is able to find its own path to improvement and progress, and the task of all countries that strive to “Humanization of Man” is to invest much more efforts, otherwise war on this planet will never stop.

Thank you once more for this interview, we agree and we wish and hope this insane war and tragedy for Ukraine to end NOW and it would be the last one on the surface of this planet. 

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