The world’s most known theatre in exile – Belarus Free Theatre – is advocating for release of political prisoners held in Russia. Last year they launched a worldwide campaign #ImWithTheBanned bringing together people who are free to express themselves, in solidarity with artists and activists banned, censored and imprisoned in Belarus and Russia. This year they joined efforts with #LetMyPeopleGo campaign and also released a new show “Burning Doors” which is based on Masha Alyokhina’s (a member of Pussy Riot) and Petr Pavlensky’s recent prison incarceration experience in Russia, and the story of Oleg Sentsov, the Ukrainian film director still serving a 20-year prison sentence in Russia for a crime he did not commit.
On 10th October 2016 BFT held a panel talk in Westminster, involving Edward Lucas (Senior Editor at The Economist), Peter Pomerantsev (author and TV producer), Andriy Khlyvniuk, activist and frontman of Ukrainian band Boombox; and Eugene Stepanenko, film and theatre director turned soldier. This event aimed to urge the British politicians to put pressure on the Russian government and release political prisoners.
Later that evening, BFT projected Ai Weiwei’s symbol of freedom of expression onto five iconic buildings across London to highlight the case of Oleg Sentsov. See more images here
Some photos and quotes from the discussion at Westminster:
Concern is not enough. It is wrong to hide behind borders of countries and be silent. Andriy Khlyvniuk
Andriy Khlyvniuk believes that artists do not live in a separate world, they have to speak up and become the voice of those who are not allowed to talk, being put in jail. Otherwise, he says ‘it’s your (British) film directors who will be imprisoned next, your writers will have to take arms in hands and start shooting; because what’s happening in Ukraine, it’s not only our problem.’
I used to have thousands of fans in Russia, but now my active position made my performances there impossible. Andriy Khlyvniuk
Eugene Stepanenko: The instinctive fear of a great war paralyses us but by ignoring the war in Ukraine we only bring it closer. Britain took a stand in WW2, and it should do the same now.
Evil only feeds of fear. Truth is the vaccine from it. We must speak the truth and not be afraid. Eugene Stepanenko
Julia Farrington from BFT invited all present to join #LetMyPeopleGo campaign. The leaflet she holds in her hands on the photo above can be downloaded from here. She also asked to join BFT’s effort “Send Postcard to a Prisoner” – all instructions, postcards and post addresses can be found here.
Sending letters or postcards is a simple and extremely effective way to help prisoners. For them, our letters are a breath of freedom and communication with the outside world. For prison officers, they are a reminder that the prisoners are not forgotten, and there are people fighting for their freedom. BFT
Marina Pesenti from the Ukrainian Institute in London suggested to establish a special film festival in the name of Oleg Sentsov.
See more photos from this event in this album on Facebook
Follow BFT campaign updates here
Tags: oleg sentsov