Ukraine War in Karlovy Vary Focus as Oleh Sentsov Meets Czech President Before ‘Real’ World Premiere

World politics took center stage in the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary on Sunday. Ukrainian filmmaker Oleh Sentsov world premiered his documentary Real from the trenches of the Ukraine War at the 58th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. But beforehand, he met with Czech president Petr Pavel who expressed the Czech Republic’s support for Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

Sentsov, who is on leave from his work as a soldier in the war, had received a warm welcome and huge ovation during the fest’s opening ceremony on Friday evening. The Sunday premiere of Real at the Hotel Thermal in Karlovy Vary was packed. Among the audience members were Viggo Mortensen and his The Dead Don’t Hurt co-star Solly McLeod.

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Before the world premiere, Sentsov arrived for his meeting with Pavel in a room at the Hotel Thermal in Karlovy Vary just after 5 p.m. local time. Press and photographers who were on the scene since word of the get-together had spread then had an opportunity to take quick photos of the two men.

After their roughly 15-minute meeting, Sentsov left for the official unveiling of Real in one of the screening rooms at the cinema.

Pavel then held a brief press conference before the world premiere. “We will continue our support [for Ukraine] because we believe that it is crucially important,” he told reporters.

Asked by THR if he had seen Real yet, Pavel said no, but he has read about it and its contents. “I believe that displaying the reality in such a brutal format will be a strong message to all,” the Czech president concluded.

The entire 90 minutes of Real play out in a single, unedited cut, with the audience seeing everything through Sentsov’s eyes, via a GoPro camera attached to his helmet in the trenches of the war. Sentsov repeatedly calls between the units and headquarters and speaks to his men gathered around him, trying to organize the evacuation of troops under fire and the resupply of his unit as Russian forces are closing in.

Real, the title of which comes from the operation’s codename, was produced by Arthouse Traffic and Cry Cinema in Ukraine together with co-producers Propeler Film in Croatia and Downey Ink in the U.K., with Sentsov, Denis Ivanov, Mike Downey, Boris T. Matić and Lana Matić producing.

KVIFF artistic director Karel Och introduced Sentsov, his team on the project and the film itself by saying screening it was not only an artistic decision but also an act of solidarity with our Ukrainian friends fighting against the aggressor.” The audience responded with much applause.

Then Sentsov spoke. As he had told THR in an interview, he emphasized that Real wasn’t so much a movie, but “a document.” He told the festival crowd: “A film always has a beginning and an end, it has a script and it’s being edited. Nothing like that happened to this film,” emphasized Sentsov. “This video was shot by accident during the counter-offensive on the Southern front in Ukraine.” And much of what happens is experienced “mainly through the sound,” he said.

Sentsov then mentioned that not all men who can be seem in Real are still alive and asked the world premiere audience to honor them and other victims of the war with a minute of silence before the screening started.

After the world premiere, the audience gave Sentsov a standing ovation. During a Q&A that followed, the filmmaker answered various questions, sharing that he is currently on the 30 days off that Ukrainian soldiers are entitled to each year.

He was also asked whether there can be anti-war films. Said Sentsov: “I don’t know what anti-war film means, but this is the true face of war. This is how true war looks.”

Oleh Sentsov’s Ukraine war doc ‘Real’
Oleh Sentsov’s Ukraine war doc Real.

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