According to Ukraine’s state film archive, the Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Center, state film agency Derzhkino wants to transfer responsibility for the country’s cinematographic heritage to a de facto “sleeping” institution. This institution has not carried out any activity since its foundation in 2011 when former president Viktor Yanukovych was in power, and currently has no staff or website.
Derzhkino issued an Order to reorganize the Dovzhenko Center, as reported by the Center’s press service. This amounts to a liquidation of the Center and national film archive that, since 1994, has stored, researched, and promoted Ukrainian cinema.
“According to the Order, all films from the collection and property of the Center are to be transferred to the state institution ‘Scientific Center of Cinematography of Ukraine,’ whose main activity, according to EDRPOU [the Ukrainian state registry legal entity identifier] is ‘higher education,’” the Center reported on Facebook.
“The State Enterprise ‘Ukrainian Animation Studio’ is expected to be separated from the Center to which copyrights for Ukrainian animation, currently owned by the Center, will be transferred. Employees of the Center will be notified further about the intended release,” the Center added.
The Order did not make reference to the unique cinema archive and museum collections of the Center that are part of the state archive and subject to a different law.
Despite offers made by the Dovzhenko Center regarding further activity, and in stark contrast to Ukraine’s Cabinet of Minister’s Order # 91-r, dated 26 Jan 2022 for further development of the Center, Derzhkino has decided to divide the one-piece collection between different structures.
The Center believes that transferring Ukraine’s national cinema archive collection – with such a high reputation – to an apparently dummy corporation, could be detrimental to Ukraine’s image and that of government authorities, especially during the on-going war. Furthermore, the Center believes that such action risks encroaching on the national memory and a betrayal of national interests.
“The team and I personally think that the decision of Derzhkino to liquidate the Dovzhenko center is a diversion. It’s aimed against not only a particular cultural institution that cares about the cultural heritage but also against the safety and reputation of Ukraine,” the acting director of the Dovzhenko center, Olena Honcharuk told the Kyiv Post.
“In the official order of the Derzhkino, the procedure is named ‘reorganization’. However, from the logic of the document, it follows that it’s a hidden ‘liquidation’. From the side of Derzhkino, there is no pre-publicized development strategy, policy, or activity plan, no open communication, and no explanation of the cultural, managerial, or economic bases for such a reorganization. In the representation of Derzhkino, reorganization predicts transferring of film collection under the control of another institution that has never processed the cinema’s storage, restoration, research, rethink, and popularization. This doesn’t destroy the sense of the Dovzhenko Center’s activity but can cause the loss of the cinematographic and cultural heritage of Ukraine,” emphasized Olena Honcharuk.
“The emergence of such a decision can be explained both by the catastrophic unprofessionalism of the people who adopted it and by the still undeclared intentions to seize the buildings and territory of the Dovzhenko Center, taking advantage of the war situation. In both cases, this will have terrible reputational and political consequences – how can our global partners trust a politician who destroys institutions and acts extremely non-transparently without speaking about that part of the Ukrainian identity embodied in cinema may be irretrievably lost,” she added.
The Oleksandr Dovzhenko National Center is the largest and only internationally recognized film archive of Ukraine. It stores more than 10,000 titles (more than 60,000 storage units) comprising features, documentaries, animations, and foreign films; along with more than 24,000 archival documents on the history of Ukrainian cinema and more than 400 museum exhibits. The Center is the only Ukrainian representative as part of the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF).
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