The award ceremony at the international film festival started with calls on Russia to free the filmmaker.

The Sofia International Film Festival (Sofia Film Fest) took place in the Bulgarian capital on March 9-19, but out of competition films will be screened by the end of the month. At the award ceremony, filmmakers urged the Russian authorities to release Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov who was sentenced to 20 years in prison on politically motivated charges. The appeal was welcomed by the audience and met with a storm of applause.

The filmmaker’s cousin Natalya Kaplan said displays of solidarity were important as they attracted media attention to the problem and helped keep it in the spotlight. She stressed that the sentence was purely political and reminded the audience that her cousin’s future was in the hands of politicians.

Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who was detained in Crimea, was sentenced by a Russian court to 20 years in a high-security prison on charges of plotting terrorist attacks on the peninsula. International human rights groups say Sentsov’s case is fabricated. They declared him a political prisoner, calling on the Russian authorities to release Oleg immediately. His story inspired Belarus Free Theatre to create the performance Burning Doors. The theatre company launched a campaign to struggle for his release and takes efforts to support the filmmaker convicted on political charges.

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