Michel Hazanavicius achieved international notoriety in 2012, when his film “The Artist” won five Oscars, including Best Film and Best Director. It was a silent film. Now events in Ukraine have left him somewhat speechless, so he wanted to help in whatever way he could. He has agreed to help Ukraine as part of UNITED24, a platform designed to unite charities, partners, donors, and public figures worldwide, who wish to help protect, save and rebuild Ukraine.

On Feb. 7, Hazanavicius visited the cities of Bucha and Irpin, which were badly damaged during the Russian occupation. The director will help raise funds for one of the destroyed apartment buildings in Irpin.

 

In an exclusive interview, Michel Hazanavicius talked to Kyiv Post about why he agreed to become a UNITED24 ambassador, whether he plans to make a film about the war in Ukraine, and whether the world should block Russian culture.

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Photo by UNITED24

Why did you decide to become a UNITED24 ambassador?

Actually, I was invited and I couldn’t decline, of course, because I thought it was an honor and a privilege to try to be useful and helpful. This is really important. And, of course, it’s not just about Ukraine, it’s about all the countries behind Ukraine and a way of life, a way of understanding values like freedom and democracy. So, when I was offered to do something for this, of course, I accepted.

You’re helping to rebuild in Irpin. Could you tell us more about it?

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It’s going to be a very nice building. It’s not finished, but when it is, it will be nice. When we started to collect money, I heard about UNITED24. I decided that it would be the best way to make this money useful for the country. When we finalized it, the team of UNITED 24 asked me in which branch I wanted to put the money. I said rebuilding. They offered me some buildings, and for this one in Irpin the fundraising was almost done, so it was very helpful to put the money here. So, I said “okay.” And we visited it.

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It’s really good to see where the money will be useful and how it will be spent because sometimes you don’t know exactly where it goes.

You have collected money for the Ukrainian city of Izyum, which was under Russian occupation. What else do you know about this city?

Well, I don’t know much about it. Once I decided to give money to UNITED24, I was contacted by the Ukrainian ambassador in Paris and they asked me if I wanted to give some money to the foundation. They sent me a report about an Izyum hospital and told me the money would go there. I said, “Yes, that sounds really good.” This region really needs a hospital. So, we split the money into a house and the other part of the money goes to the Izyum hospital.

I don’t know much about the region, but what I saw about the hospital made me think that it would be useful to help them rebuild the hospital.

Do you want to visit Izyum?

Yes, sure.

Photo by UNITED24

After the war, maybe.

Maybe, earlier.

How do you plan to help Ukraine? Maybe tell about the war or make a movie?

I’ve been asked if I wanted to make a movie about Ukraine. I actually produced a documentary in 2005 about the Orange Revolution. Now I’m making an animation movie that takes a lot of time and energy, so I don’t know what will be next.

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How can I help Ukraine? I trust UNITED24 to give me some options.

Do you think famous actors and directors should talk more about the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

I don’t know. I mean there are no rules in that kind of situation. If you feel like doing it, do it. But I think it has to be sincere.

Do you agree that the world should block Russian artists, Russian movies, and Russian actors, or do we need another way?

I’ve been asked that question a few times now. The answer for me is that I have no good solution for that situation. Maybe because I work in the cultural field. But I hope, or I believe that culture is the last link between human beings and it’s the last way to hear what people have to say.

Photo by UNITED24

I know, I consider culture an exception. But I understand that people from sports would say “sport is an exception” and people from another field will say “we are an exception” too, so, at the end of the day, nothing will be done. I can say I have no good solution for this. I don’t think it’s a good solution to close the door on culture, but it’s also not a good solution to continue business as if nothing was happening. Unfortunately, I have no good solution.

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Do you have friends in Russia?

No, not really. But I have some very close friends who have some connection with people from the theaters, people who were supposed to be against Putin, and educated people with very strong connections with Western countries. But these people believe Putin. And I have to say, when they talked to them at the beginning of the war, my friends were really shocked by what their friends, Russian friends, told them. They couldn’t believe it because these people are more educated, open-minded people connected to the West. That was scary.

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