Alexander Rodyansky: “There are many representatives of Russian culture who have gone into exile”

Alexander Rodyansky (kyiv, 1961), producer of renowned films by Andrey Zvyagintsev such as ‘Leviathan’ or ‘Sin amor (Loveless)’ and friend of the Ukrainian president Volodímir Zelenski since he worked on his television channel 1+1, left Russia to early March this year after 20 years living in Moscow. Impossible to help Ukraine from there. He has been in Barcelona to meet with people close to the Kyiv International Forum, both Russian exiles and Ukrainians, and to look for collaborators to shoot a new project about the assassination of León Trotsky carried out by the Catalan Ramón Mercader in Mexico.

How has the war affected you?

-My business used to be divided between Moscow, where I produced and directed series and films in Russian, and Los Angeles, where I developed international shows for television and cinema. I have severed all business ties with Russia, I have left everything there. I have also left the biggest Russian film festival that was organized in Sochi. It will not take place this year.

-What is your strategy now?

-I have concentrated my activity in the USA. I have started working with Apple TV+ and I am in contact with other platforms. I plan to continue making films with some of the Russian film directors. The best criticized the invasion in Ukraine and, like me, have left the country. Currently there are many representatives of Russian culture in exile.

-But is it based in Europe?

I am in Milan. I try to help Ukraine as I can. I have traveled five times since the conflict began, the last time a week ago. I have known President Zelensky for years as he worked at 1 + 1, the largest Ukrainian TV channel founded by me.

-He is playing the role of his life as the leader of a country.

-He was always a smart guy, with a lot of energy and charm. All of this undoubtedly helped him win the elections and become president. But the fact that he has naturally become one of the leaders of the free world has surprised us all. In Ukraine there have been presidents of many types in 30 years of independence: interested, corrupt, people who did not measure up, traitors…. he is the first one I like.

-The war has united the Ukrainians more than ever.

-Now they feel part of the same nation, something that had not been achieved before. What is Ukraine? It was a frequent question in a country where some speak Russian, others Ukrainian, some are Catholic and others Orthodox. All this has put an end to this war that has united them, has made them feel part of the same country.

-When was the last time you were in Ukraine?

-In the past week. I brought foreign friends there to witness what happened in towns like Bucha and other small towns that have become notorious for war crimes committed by the Russian army.

“The documentary that Sean Penn is making about the Ukraine war will be ready very soon. And there will be more”

-When will we see this conflict in the cinema?

-The documentary that Sean Penn is doing will be ready very soon. And there will be more. For movies, I estimate that they can be ready in a year.

-The experts say that the war is going to be long. Any forecast in this regard?

-At this time both sides believe they can win. The Ukrainians need more weapons and the Russians more soldiers. They have had many casualties and it is hard for them to find reinforcements. It will be a long war. The Russians underestimated Ukraine. They did not expect to be greeted with bullets nor did they expect Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine. Nor did they take into account Zelensky’s ability as a leader. They have wanted to see him only as a comedian but he is much more than that, he is an entrepreneur who set up a production company and made his fortune with the most watched political satire program in the country. Ukraine is not a perfect country, there is corruption, but unlike Russia it has a democracy where the president goes to debates with other candidates.

-How does this war affect the film industry and culture?

-It has caused great losses in the cinema. The sanctions that prevent the release of Hollywood films in Russia, which were 75% of the market, fully affect cinemas and distributors. Many will close. Russian production companies will have a hard time producing true stories that the public will identify with because of censorship. Some genres will survive: horror films and low-budget comedies. There will also be propaganda films financed by the State. Most private investors have left the business in Russia. Even the televisions, an effective propaganda vehicle, will have to produce with state money because of the drop in advertising.

-What projects do you have underway?

-In the coming months we will shoot a miniseries in Egypt, ‘Debriefing the president’, based on the bestseller by John Nixon, a former CIA spy who was instrumental in the capture of Saddam Hussein. He was the first to question him and that changed his view of the situation in the Middle East. It will be directed by Ziad Doueiri, an American with a Lebanese father. We are also preparing with Fox Entertainment, ‘Khan’, a great epic series about Genghis Khan in the style of ‘Vikings’. It will feature the Russian director installed in LA Sergei Bodrov and Chris Collins, from ‘FX Sons of Anarchy’, as ‘showrunner’.

What a great mother Ramón Mercader was! We are looking for a director who speaks Spanish for a project about the assassination of Trotsky”

-Will you do something in Spain?

-We don’t have a partner here yet but we would be interested in developing a project on the history of Trotsky’s assassination, which begins in Spain during the Civil War and ends in Mexico. What a character the mother of Ramón Mercader! We are looking for a director who speaks Spanish and we have already spoken with some. 90% of the project will be in Spanish.

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-Also prepare a kind of ‘House of Cards’ on the Kremlin.

-It is the adaptation of the bestseller ‘All the men of the Kremlin’, by the journalist Mikhail Zygar. It shows how in these 22 years the tension with Ukraine has always existed. It shows how Putin came to power, how he and his circle operate. In some way he has something of ‘House of Cards’ but also ‘Breaking bad’ because he has gone from being a normal person to being the leader of a totalitarian state and that has happened before the eyes of the whole world. They have bought the Russians with the profits from gas and oil. People live better now than before. It is curious how the end of the Cold War meant a liberation for Ukraine but for the Russians, according to Putin, it was the great geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century. Hence the revenge and imperialist resentment. Many Russians believe him. Let’s not underestimate the power of propaganda.

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