Check out the full interview with Lubomir below...
The civil war in Ukraine broke out in 2014. In 2016, it so happened that I had to go to this country, and then I suspected that what is happening there, in the geographical center of Europe, and what is being spread in the media in our country and in the so-called western countries have nothing to do with each other. The push must have been too strong so I took credentials from both sides of the conflict and went into the war zone.
Already during my first visit to Donbas, I saw and understood things that should shock any normal person. To make it easier for you to understand me, I will tell you very briefly what happened in Ukraine after the end of 2013.
You, in Spain, have extensive experience with separatism. I remember well the events in Catalonia in 2017. Then the world media gave both sides the opportunity to state their positions, the reasons for holding a referendum were stated clearly enough, the position of the authorities in Madrid as well. Police violence against unarmed people was condemned. And what happened in Ukraine…
At the end of 2013, President Yanukovych had to make a decision on the association agreement with the EU. Due to the EU’s refusal to offer sufficient compensation for the disruption this agreement would cause to the economy of the country, whose main trading partner was Russia, the signing of the agreement was delayed. This led to a protest in Kiev, which at one point went well beyond the bounds of legality. There have been real battles between protesters and the police. In February 2014, an agreement was signed between the opposition and the ruling party for early elections, but literally hours after the agreement, it was violated by armed “protesters” who seized the government quarter. President Yanukovych managed to escape to the eastern parts of the country. The president and the executive power were replaced in a way that is not in the country’s Constitution, that is, a classic coup d’état was carried out.
The country was then thrown into chaos. Protests and counter-protests began, the new government, due to intention or incompetence, allowed clashes between groups of people with different views on the future of their country. The culmination of this was the tragedy in Odessa, where on May 2, 2014, supporters of European integration burned alive with Molotov cocktails 50 people from the counter-protest. Neither the police nor the fire department intervened adequately.
Elections were held at the end of May, and President-elect Poroshenko took office at the beginning of June.
Meanwhile, in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the example of Kiev was followed and independence referendums were held there, after which two independent states were declared – the DPR and the LPR. A second referendum was held in Crimea to return to the composition of the Russian Federation, with expected results, and this time Russia, under the threat of the new authorities in Kiev to allow the US to move into the strategic naval base, recognized the referendum and accepted Crimea into its composition. Given the illegality of the change of power in Kiev, it is even debatable whether these actions should be called separatism, they were retaliatory actions.
The coup plotters from Kiev decided to quell the rebel uprising in Donetsk and Luhansk, but instead of targeting the activists, they sent heavy military equipment to both areas and began indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets. Militia was organized in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and thus began the hot phase of the war, which lasted until February 2015, when, after the counter-offensive and successes on the battlefield of the DPR and LPR, the Minsk-2 peace agreement was signed. According to this agreement, the breakaway regions were to return to the composition of Ukraine on a federal basis, with Ukraine having to amend its Constitution by the end of 2015. This did not happen, and the authorities in Ukraine used the agreement to build a strong army and resolve the conflict by force. This was recognized recently by both Merkel and Hollande, whose countries were guarantors for Ukraine in the peace agreement.
This is as short as possible. You know, when a room in the house is on fire, the fire should be put out, not doused with gasoline. Because if it is not extinguished, sooner or later the whole house will catch fire. This happened a year and a few months ago, and it was expected by everyone familiar with the situation in the country.
Now back to my motivation for making this film.
I was shocked by too many things. I couldn’t believe that in the 21st century, in the geographical center of Europe, a Government would send an army to indiscriminately slaughter its own civilians because there were separatists around them. This absolutely fits the definition of terrorism. It is no less shocking that both politicians and the media in the West unreservedly supported this terrorism. The media created a distorted parallel reality for the conflict in Ukraine, and at the political level – until the beginning of Russia’s involvement in the war, the West gave Ukraine more than 16 billion euros, supported the country wholeheartedly for all its actions and did nothing to force it to fulfill his part of the peace agreement. It was shocking to me that the west was not trying to help establish peace in the country, but was pushing Ukraine towards a large-scale conflict.
I decided to make a film to show what people in the war zone are subjected to. No analysis and no politics, not even author comments, just to give the viewer an opportunity to look through my lens and understand what is happening in Eastern Ukraine. Then I had some illusions that I could influence journalists and politicians who, although it was difficult to find Ukraine on the map, acted as if they knew everything about the conflict in the country and spread absurd delusions. Turns out I was too naive. As people, they would probably understand the situation, but as politicians and journalists, they simply had zero independence and followed outside directions.
I can hardly tell anything interesting about myself. I graduated from the Institute of Chemical Technology. As a student, I had plans to study science, specifically physical chemistry. But our bloc lost the first cold war in 1989, the changes came, our science was destroyed in record time. I had to work somewhere to support myself. All in all, since then I have taken a number of not very qualified positions just to have a job, currently working for a trading company. Photography and human rights activity are my hobbies, so to speak, my latest hobby is journalism and filmmaking.
The first movie I ever saw… that was many decades ago. A children’s serial film about an African tribe. At the moment, I only remember one episode where the main character, Yao, touches elephant poo with his finger and says that the animal has recently passed by. But I remember watching it with great interest, I can hardly find it now, I don’t even know its title.
The first names that come to mind are Miloš Forman and Reinhard Hauff. And, respectively, their films “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Forman and “Knife in the Head” by the German director. If we talk about documentary films, I was very impressed by the film from the USSR “The Supreme Court”. In it, the story was about a man who committed a serious crime and was sentenced to death. The authors tried to keep the focus away from themselves and concentrate on the character and the other participants. I remember, the audience in the hall remained seated for more than a minute after the end of the film. This is indicative that the authors have managed to capture them with their work.
Before I finished “The Donbas Children”, I tried to do an informational project about the conflict in Ukraine with many interviews from both sides of the line. It was not particularly successful. After the first few awards for the film from international festivals – the first two were in the USA, the third – in Spain, then I realized that maybe this was the right way.
The second time I went to Donetsk, I already knew what I wanted my film to look like. But for those already more than two years, many journalists from Europe had come there, and most of them had greatly disappointed the local people with bespoke and manipulative materials. In this situation, any enthusiasm for cooperation could hardly be counted on. I had to go there a few more times, and it wasn’t until the fifth time that I was put in touch with the local human rights activist Ivan Kopyl, who helped me a lot and put me in touch with people who were willing to tell their stories on camera.
If the materials that I shot became a film, the credit goes mainly to the editor Zina Nacheva, who is a teacher at our Academy of Theater and Film Art. I was too critical of the technical problems in each material, I realized very quickly that I was not ready to edit the film myself. I didn’t have enough knowledge either. It was very lucky that I knew Zina.
This film was primarily screened at festivals. I could not afford to attend these events, for purely financial reasons. So, I have no way of knowing how the film is received by the Western audience. The Bulgarian and Russian versions of the film have been uploaded to YouTube, but both in our country and in Russia and Ukraine, society is highly polarized on the subject of the war in Ukraine, and the reaction of people who have seen the film depends entirely on their position on the conflict.
I have a hard time answering this question. For me, the most important thing is that the film has some message, some idea, some cause. And to get the content into a viewable form.
For me, an award from a festival is a kind of seal of quality. And participation in some festivals is also a possibility for the film to be seen by the public. This is important for films like mine, which for political reasons are studiously shunned by the mainstream media.
At the moment, it is not clear if I will have such a career. I made this film with self-financing. I have invested too much money taken into account my capabilities. This is my first film. Both this film and the possible sequels I have in mind are very far from what is sought after in the mainstream distribution channels. So, even a part of the expenses on it cannot be returned. We’ll see how things go from here and if I have the financial ability to make more films. I hope to be able to make at least one more – two films on the same topic – the conflict in Ukraine. This is a mission for me, I don’t see myself as a director.
Thank you for this inspiring interview and for taking the time to honestly answer all the questions. The BIA team wishes you great success with your next projects!