On 2 January unknown people entered the office of the Cinematographers' Union and sealed the rooms of "Tatsiana" studio and the study studio of the Union. Later it was found out the strangers were officers of Committee of State Control, financial police and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Kasia Kamotskaya talks to Volha Mikalaichyk, head of the study studio, and Yury Khashchavatski, its art director and author "Ordinary President", "Russian Fortune", "Oasis", and many other films.

2003 2003-01-30T10:00:00+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

On 2 January unknown people entered the office of the Cinematographers' Union and sealed the rooms of "Tatsiana" studio and the study studio of the Union. Later it was found out the strangers were officers of Committee of State Control, financial police and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Kasia Kamotskaya talks to Volha Mikalaichyk, head of the study studio, and Yury Khashchavatski, its art director and author "Ordinary President", "Russian Fortune", "Oasis", and many other films.
Kamotskaya: Financial examinations happen practically every day presently. Why did the authorities pay so much attention to the visit of state controllers to your structure?
Khashchavatski: It wasn't just a studio for studies. The equipment we have here earlier belonged to Mass media-Center of the Soros Foundation (Open Society Institute). Over 20 movies of Belarusian authors were created in this studio. Among them – my movies "Live to See Love", "Gods of Hammer and Sickle". "Captives of Caucasus", and "Fear" by Leanid Mindlin, joint project of young directors "Unusual Concert", Viktar Korzun's "Freedom Issue", where Vasil Bykaw, famous Belarusian writer, participated, Iryna Volakh's "In the Search for Belvedere", Aleh Dashkevich's "Knight of Dream", and lots of other films. When Soros was thrown out of Belarus, the studio equipment was passed to the Belarusian PEN-Center. Later, in the frames of agreement, the PEN-Center passed it to the Cinematographers' Union, also an NGO.
One of the agreement conditions was support of small independent documentary projects.
Our studio did not have a separate legal address. It was just a technical base, which provided students and members of the Cinematographers' Union with the possibility to create small projects, and taking our present poverty into account, help young Belarusian film-directors.
Kamotskaya: How do you explain the recent events?
Khashchavatski: Today it's absolutely clear that it was political detection. When they burst into our studio and studio "Tatsiana", they primarily hunted for video-tapes. They were interested in the documentaries, made at the studios.

Mikalaichyk: It's not a secret, that Yury Khashchavatski worked in this studios, that's where he made one of his last films "Live to See Love". This is a documentary about homeless children, absolutely not political. But we are convinced that they continue to persecute Khashchavatski for "Ordinary President" (documentary, Khashchavatski made about the Referendum'96, received the prize of Berlin festival of documentaries "Forum", and Andrei Sakharov's prize in Moscow).
Khashchavatski: It seems, Khashchavatski was not the reason, but the occasion. Firstly, I think the authorities know that this equipment served for making films disloyal to the regime, and could continue to serve for this purposes on the eve of the possible referendum.
Secondly, as you know, Lukashenka ordered to transmit Belarusian programs on the Russian channels. Where would they take equipment for increased production? Our equipment can be fully used on the state channels or passed to some studios, which are controlled by the regime. Besides that, the Committee for State Control is located in the building next to ours. Probably, they need more space, they need to expand. Possibly, at the cost of our building. To my mind, there was a number of reasons.
Mikalaichyk: Our current legislation and accounting requirements are so perplexed now. Examining officials, if they have such order or desire, can always find violations. Practically, examining bodies turned into retributive bodies, the regime gave the opportunity to "scourge and pardon".
Khashchavatski: I talked to one of the examiners. "Who are you? What's your name?" And he showed me the id-card of the Committee for State Control, which did not even have his name. May be they have such cards, so that later nobody bears responsibility for violation of laws and our citizens' rights?
Tatsiana Lohinava, head of "Tatsiana" studio, showed me the documents, which she had received from the officials of State Control Committee – inventory of exempt property. The documents do not have a single signature, there is no letter head, which shows what body issued the document, it's not written, who took the decision, and on what ground.
They are aware of the fact that their actions are illegal. One of the controllers came up to me, showed a note, which said "this is political raid", hid it back to his pocket and left.
Mikalaichyk: It's true, some of the equipment is not registered correctly. But we did not hide it. The accountant of Cinematographers' Union incorrectly registered the fact that it was passed to the balance of the Union. Usually the maximum done in such cases is a warning to the accountant, may be a fine. But, special police forces, who came and immediately seized all equipment, even telephones – this is inadequate. That lead to the thought that the matter was not the accounting mistake.
Kamotskaya: What is the present state of documentary production in Belarus?
Khashchavatski: It happens like this. Calm, talented, non-radical Misha Zhdanowski, who is interested only in art, neither revolutions, not politics, made a documentary "Every Sound has Its Echo On Earth" about excellent Belarusian musician and teacher V. Perlin. The film was made on a state-owned studio BelarusFilm. The documentary, among other people who talked about Perlin, showed Vasil Bykaw and Ryhor Baradulin. The Ministry of Culture made him cut the interviews with these writers, who are the honor of Belarusian culture, and are studied in every school course, out of the documentary. Only when the interviews were cut out, the Ministry "accepted" the film, allowing to run it. This is the case, when you don't go to politics, politics will come to you.

Mikalaichyk: The Ministry board said on its meeting directly, that "the studio is the place where different dashuks work". Although excellent director Viktar Dashuk has never worked on our equipment. But this person is known for his speeches, publications, sincere films, and active position. This is unacceptable for the authorities.
Kamotskaya: Generally, is it possible to make independent documentaries in modern Belarus?

Khashchavatski: At present there is no studio which could be used for making independent movies. All cinema are under state control. I am sure this is done on purpose, in order to close the information field on the eve of the referendum about giving Lukashenka the right to be President for life.

Kamotskaya: What are Belarusian movie-makers going to do in such situation?

Khashchavatski: There will be a trial. But its decision is clear already. Because it will be done by the same Belarusian court, which found deaf-and-dumb person guilty of shouting anti-presidential slogans. I don't know what other film-makers are going to do. I can speak only for myself. I am going to work. You know, it is rumored that "controllers" have found a new terrible movie by Khashchavatski, titled "Our Collective Farm". Unfortunately, there is no such documentary. The first title of the film "Ordinary President" was "Ordinary Collective Farm". Probably, I will soon make a documentary "Our Collective Farm", not about our "president", but about our people, who are talented, but are deprived of rights, who are not able or do not want to fight for their country, their fortune, and their rights.

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