STANDARD DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed are those of the people(s) being interviewed. They do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of DIAG and this author.
Cinecenta, March 5, 2018
University of Victoria, Student Union Bldg,
3800 Finnerty Rd, Victoria, BC Please check local listings
As much as Filmmaker and Documentarian Boris Ivanov hopes change can happen in his home country of Russia, his debut feature length work, On Putin’s Blacklist, says otherwise. There were many challenges which took place since he started constructing this work which began in 2013. Maybe Lihko, the Slavic god of misfortune, is affecting the socio-political climate of this country. From Super Channel pulling funding on many Canadian productions (including this one) to fears over being ostracized even more, this director feels this story about how the adoption ban of Russian orphans to US citizens came about must be told. There’s a new cold war happening. “And It is here to stay and last for years — just like the old Cold War,” said Ivanov.
This producer is no stranger to examining the occult side of many political wranglings. From History Channel’s Beyond Top Secret to In The Monument (looking at the evolution of Holocaust memorialization), he has many types of films under his belt. He’s even working on a feature length film, Hell to Pay, which involves making a deal with the devil. This work is still in development. While making a stamp in the supernatural is tough, it’s his look at the world at large which stands out:
“All our films deal with issues of multiculturalism and what it’s like to not fit in the society you’re in or how to take a chance and make a home somewhere else. As an immigrant, these issues concern me. They are part of a lot of the work that we’ve produced,” revealed Ivanov.
He’s living in Vancouver, BC and his company, Interfilm Productions, has been making informative documentaries since 2000.
When he started working On Putin’s Blacklist, it was supposed to be called Baby Cold War. It would deal primarily with adoption related issues and the adoption ban on Americans. These kids were being used as pawns in this geopolitical conflict between Russia and the rest of the world. When Ivanov realized what was happening, he was really upset. He said, “The point I want to show is how heartless politics can be where even innocent children can become a prey to people’s ambitions.”
With no surprise, the shift also included Canadians because there were people in government having an aversion to same sex marriage. But as years went by, according to this filmmaker, the relationship between US and Russia became much more politicized and what’s seen now has gone back to sentiments back during the Cold War (1947–1991).
Another work he’s crafting is called Mother Russia, which focuses on the same themes. But to distinguish it from one documentary to another, “This pieces deals with a lot more about the medical conditions of kids growing up in day care and the difficulty of adopting them. The stories of these families show perseverance. With On Putin’s Blacklist, the focus is more about how politics get involved in simple things as international adoption, and far greater issues.”
Ivanov had difficulty finding Russian people to interview because many were afraid of speaking out. They were very concerned that anything that they say might be misconstrued as being negative towards Putin or their government and it’d be enough grounds to pull their permits to operate. Hardly any organization active in Russia participated in this documentary.
“The most surprising thing for me was even some American citizens working in Russia were afraid to give me interviews because they thought Putin was going to get them.
“I also find a lot of similarities in how the way the Trump administration is doing business the same way Vladimir Putin’s been doing business for the last 20 years. And, it’s not just Trump.”
One of Ivanov’s other goals is to have this film educational. Some material is already textbook material, but to give it a visual stamp can help others learn. He hopes people will see similarities between what’s happening in Russia and what’s happening in their lives in North America.
Even for performers, Putin’s reach is everywhere. Russian punk rockers Pussy Riot even got jailed when they protested, and although their segment was shorter than Ivanov had hoped during editing, he was glad to include them and their opinion. They were very vocal in saying how their country is getting worse.
When concerning orphans, it’s not just about abandonment, but it’s also the systems that take them away from their families. According to Ivanov, no systems in Russia are in place to help families in trouble or in need. Instead of extending a helping hand, they just take them away from home and put them in orphanages. This producer said, “The hand of the State is overpowering. That’s the theme which I repeat throughout this film [and others.]”
Another aspect of this documentary explores is LGBT rights. This director said that anti LGBT campaigns have become part of Russian ideology. This spewing of hatred is counter to how nearly every other nation is accepting. When he talked about what’s going on in the Republic of Chechnya, the cleansing of LGBT people was incomprehensible. They were told to get out. Those individuals entered Canada without issue and Ivanov said is very proud to be Canadian.
“It is very hard to see the end to this Cold War. Putin is young. He’s going to be in power for a while. He’s making sure no one can challenge him. And, as my film presents, it’s very hard to fight him and this system of hypocrisy that’s supporting him.”