Aleh Dashkevich: "Government doesn’t trust the artist"
Conversation with Aleh Dashkevich, a director and the chairman of «BelFilm» association.
association was established in 2010. And the main goal was to unite those who were
connected with the Belarusian subjects in film and video production, wasn’t it?
- Well, not only the Belarusian ... it was to bring people together who aim to self-realization
through video creativity in Belarus. But our organization is international...
and there are also Belarusians abroad ... We have tried and still try to
collect all the Belarussian creative resources that are around, that are
available. Actually, as we see, it is difficult to speak about creative work in
Belarus, I mean, the state channels. And outside of Belarus, in some places,
there appear some resources which helps to make video. Sometimes it's
entertaining, sometimes very professional, as is the case with aru.tv. But
still there is lack of system there. And one of our goals is to help people to create
- It has been not more than 2 years since the association was created. What has
been done in that time?
- In 2010 we only registered the association, but in fact there were no activity.
And in 2011 Belfilm promoted documentary. And we have found areas where there was
interest for the documentary. We hold shows in the regions. The main thing in
these shows is to establish contacts relevant to the time. I mean, sometimes
regional organizers of the show, as it turns out, are not ready to take on new
forms, that we offer. For example, we arrived in one town and brought a unique
film, which won in six nominations and got 4 Emmy awards. This was the film by
Jon Alpert, “China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province".
And people asked me "What have you brought?" They didn’t understand
the film. So our first task is to promote documentary films and Belarusian
documentary as well. But most important is promotion presenting the audience a
quality documentary content. Both local and foreign.
- How easy is it to organize demonstrations in the regions?
- We do not have any obstacles, but we are not welcome very much. Many times we
tried to organize shows, to make agreements with state officials about a
certain program, which carried no threat at all but it did not work. People are
afraid, though, they would like to participate. They fear that the initiative
is punishable, it is unclear what will happen because it a difficult period now
... They give examples: tell us about the fate of other officials, who were
dismissed ... Moreover it is in the provinces, where it is not easy to find
another job. In general, it is a common Belarusian situation.
- How can you describe the situation in which Belarusian documentary is now?
- It's such a quasi-soviet situation… On the one hand, the government allocates
a minimum budget for a documentary film that it would not disappear at all.
People take one or two films a year at the studio Letapis. Moreover, they are
well-known people who do not have to prove anything, who have proven everything
by their work and creativity. But, in fact, they are state establishment
officials. They can not afford themselves to realize their potential fully. But
on the other hand, the documentary is not included in development priorities.
The money allocated to culture, go on TV, as the most, according to
authorities, effective means of propaganda. There have been attempts to do
something like this with feature films. But in fact they were all unsuccessful.
And for the government it is clear: investing in movies is pointless, there are
no strategic targets. There is no goal for the ruling power to leave a trace in
history, it lives one day. And I do not think they understand the power of
documentary cinema. In order to understand the power of documentary film and
art in general, one needs to understand what art is. There have been examples
in history when a state even dictator one, totalitarian, understood what a
movie is. They had a strong popular idea among the masses, which a creator also
believed and that they have implemented it in their work. In our case it is another
situation because our standard of contemporary art is Dazhynki and Slavianski
Bazar. No one thinks above this, and if somebody thinks, those people are in
very narrow limits. So, no Sergei Eisenstein or Leni
Riefenstahl will occur with the help of our ideologues.
- And what about the independent documentary?
- It all depends on how a person fits the current trend. Because in addition to
creativity and skill one should also work with modern technologies, learn them,
to be engaged in PR to promote one. This requires entirely different skills.
You can be a brilliant artist, but will not be able to realize your potential
because you do not know how to show it. And not only that we don’t have production
institute. People themselves are lacking understanding of the new era,
understanding of the mechanisms of the modern film industry. And how can they
now it? The state must give approval for the development of this industry, but
it keeps it all under control. It is important for them not to destroy if
possible and do not let to develop. It’s all because the state does not trust
- What are the Belarusian documentary films which can be advised for those who
are not acquainted with them yet?
- There are many films. I advise you to watch almost all movies of Viktor Asliuk,
Yury Khashchavatsky, they are leaders. But there are also Viktar Dashuk, Uladzimir
Kolas, Halia Adamovich, Yury Haruliou, Ola Dashuk and other creators, whose
films have been praised at various film festivals.
- Is Belarusian cinema known enough outside Belarus?
- Yes, people know about it. Viktar Asliuk is the member of the European
Academy of the documentary. His films are absolutely different from the movies
of Khashchavatsky. And both of them are the acknowledged masters. These two
would have been enough. Plus those mentioned above and quite young authors who
are trying to show up today.
- It turns out that the Belarusian documentary films have need to be promoted
in Belarus? And this what will Belfilm deal with?
- Yes, of course. But still you need to attract those people who work in the
Belarusian context, in order to develop video - and we do it. Those, whom I
mentioned - they have already realized themselves, but there are those who are
just trying to. Now a person who has a mobile phone and internet is a director
him or herself. A person can film something and put on public view. And if there
will be something in it, there will be the audience, there will be fans. But in
any case, it is sporadic. We would like to make it into the system, where video
will be shown, to have a professional critic, perhaps, to invite the best participants
to the seminars for them to learn more about the world works in the field of
documentary. These are short-term plans. Next, I would like documentary film
lovers to have the opportunity to get acquainted with all the new things
happening in the documentary filming in general as soon as possible.