blogEast is a new initiative of goEast - Festival of Central- and Eastern European Film. We hereby declare our solidarity with our colleagues and friends from Central- and Eastern Europe, who see themselves confronted with large challenges because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Within the following weeks blog entries will be published here, looking at the situation from a cinematic, political and/or social point of view. blogEast is supervised and edited by the goEast team and is part of the program Pan-Europan Picknick, supported by the Kulturfonds Frankfurt Rhein Main.
Stability is not our creed - for the last 30 years we have lived from crisis to crisis. So now we are hoping on the Russian ability to survive.
Our Doker festival is completely independent and gets no funding from the government or any foundations. So, we rely on sold-out screenings and bringing foreign filmmakers (with help from embassies) to attract more viewers. We looked at our colleagues in different countries who have done online film festivals and decided that this is not our way. So, instead, we're waiting.
We still haven't reached the peak of the epidemic, but the healthcare system is already at breaking point. Back in the Soviet Union, we had a network of state hospitals and medical stations covering the whole country. But we methodically destroyed it. Now we're reaping what we sowed. In most regions the epidemic is just beginning, but healthcare providers are already saying they don't have enough personal protective equipment. Meanwhile in Moscow ambulances are queuing up for up to 9 hours to drop off patients at hospitals.
After two weeks of self-isolation (the authorities still won't use the word "quarantine"), Moscow's authorities introduced digital permits for people who have to get to their job. But they decided to manually check every person's permit and passport near the metro entrances. As a result, people spent hours waiting in crowded underground passages. This is a great example of how to saw off the branch you're sitting on.
Meanwhile the news is quite optimistic: they say the country is ready for the epidemic. The president addressed the nation saying: „Our country has faced many trials. We were terrorized by the Polovtsians and the Pechenegs* [*extinct peoples that fought with Russia in the 10-13th centuries] but we overcame them. So, will we overcome this pestilent corona virus ". The connection is not quite clear.
The government will provide help only to those who officially lost their jobs and registered as unemployed. These people will be paid 260 Euro, which is a laughable amount. All the others are left to struggle.
The mayor of Moscow (official population 13 million) has a weird passion for renovating the city's streets and sidewalks about every six months. He was going to spend 156,000,000 Euro on curbstones. Later, he decided to cancel part of the purchase, but now he came up with a new initiative. About 300,000 Euro will be spent on advertising billboards in public places (in an empty city) to support businesses. At the same time our mayor says that financial support for Moscow's residents is impossible because it can "break the budget". What can I say? They surely know how to prioritize their spending. To top it off, the ruble plummeted again, which means that prices will be growing.
I think not much will probably change for Russian documentary filmmakers. For many years we've been a bunch of enthusiasts making films with basically no funding. That makes you understand exactly why we make documentaries - because we can't not do it.
Tatyana Soboleva is a Russian film director and producer, CEO of Filmstart production, selection committee member and executive director of industry programs of DOKer, Moscow International Documentary Film Festival.