Luminato and the Toronto International Film Festival issued a joint statement in partnership with the co-founder of Belarus Free Theatre Natalia Kaliada, about the illegal detention of Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. Sentsov is one of three artists whose story is brought to graphic light in Burning Doors a production by Belarus Free Theatre (Click here to find out more about Burning Doors).
A native of annexed Crimea, Mr. Sentsov has been incarcerated in northern Siberia since 2014 after being arrested on unsubstantiated terrorism charges related to artistic and political protest and a subsequent spurious trial. Mr. Sentsov’s health is now in grave condition as today marks day 35 of a hunger strike that he started in protest of the illegal detention of the Ukrainian political prisoners who have taken a stand against the Russian government’s unlawful annexation of Crimea.
Statement from Luminato & the Toronto International Film Festival:
“Today two of the country’s leading arts organizations join the growing calls for Russian authorities to release Oleg Sentsov and all other Ukrainian political prisoners currently detained. As organizations that vehemently believe in the right, value and necessity of artistic and political expression, Sentsov and other political prisoners have been denied their basic human rights and their detention is a serious violation of international law. As the world’s attention turns to Russia for the World Cup, we urge the international artistic community and Canadian government to join us in calling for the immediate release of Mr. Sentsov and 70 additional Ukrainian political prisoners.”
Piers Handling, CEO, Toronto International Film Festival
Josephine Ridge, Artistic Director, Luminato
Anthony Sargent CBE, CEO, Luminato
The joint statement from Luminato and the Toronto International Film Festival follows a recent meeting between Belarus Free Theatre co-founder Natalia Kaliada and Sentsov’s sister in Ukraine.
“We already knew that Oleg’s situation was dire but after meeting with his sister Natasha, it’s clear that the time for ‘just words’ has passed. What we need now are urgent and immediate actions to ensure that our colleague and fellow activist Oleg Sentsov is released. In addition to Oleg, the Russian government, led by Vladimir Putin, currently have 70 Ukrainian political prisoners detained in prisons around Russia. Having experienced living through a dictatorship in Belarus and having first-hand knowledge of the systemic oppression of the Russian government, we believe these prisoners are kept in inhumane conditions. We urge world leaders to take action and stand up against the gross breaches of international human rights laws and to make sure that Oleg Sentsov and all political prisoners are released. This is not the time for festivities and comradery at the World Cup in Russia. It’s a time to leverage political pressure. It’s a time for moral politicians to speak up to save human lives in Russia. All productions of Burning Doors at Luminato are dedicated to Oleg and his fellow citizens who are unlawfully imprisoned in Russia.”
You can read more about Oleg Sentsov here:
How you can help:
Take action by sending your appeal directly. Read how here.
Voice your support by using hashtag #FreeSentsov on social media
Sign the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/freesentsov