The boycott of Russian films does not make sense – An open letter to the CEO of the European Film Academy

Paris, the 23th April 2022

Matthijs Wouter Knol
CEO and Director of the European Film Academy

Submission for the European Film Awards / Proposal for an alternative to the boycott of Russian films

Dear Matthijs,

Thank you for your invitation to submit films for the next European Film Awards.

As documentary, I submit L’Empire du Silence by Thierry Michel, a film that I consider as important for the memory of mass massacres in Zaïre/République démocratique du Congo as was Claude Lanzmann Shoah for the memory of the genocide of Jews.

As fiction film,  I wished to submit is Unclenching the Fists  by Kira Kovalenko.   It’s really the strongest film I’ve seen in recent months.  However I read that due to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Academy has decided to boycott the Russian films. I also read that in solidarity with Ukraine, Kira has asked her film not to be shown till the liberation of Ukraine.     

I have great respect for the statement by Kira but I completely disagree with the idea of the boycott of Russian films as decided by the Academy without consultation of the Members, probably in a moment of emotion following the Russian aggression.

I have written some days ago to Stas Prytula, Chairman of the Public Council at the Ukrainian State Film Agency and to Denis Maslikov, Executive director at Ukrainian Film Institute to inform them about my strong disagreement with their recent request of a boycott of Russian films by the Cannes Festival.

I agree with the boycott of films by directors (or artists in general) showing support to Putin’s aggression against Ukraine, but I consider that the boycott against all Russian films is nonsense, as Sergei Loznitsa has argued.

During my 22 years of experience as Expert and Head of Department at the European Ayudiovisual Observatory (from 1993 to 2015), I had the opportunity to make a mission once a year to Russia and to supervise reports on the Russian film and TV industry, written by Russian experts. I have always appreciated the high level of professionality of those experts and I have never identified within the film professionals (with the exception of some well known personalities) a support to the ultra-nationalist approach of their government.

The Russian Federation was a Founding Member of the Observatory and was excluded last March, as a consequence of its exclusion from the Council of Europe. I think this is absolutely right.

But the situation with individual professionals in the film industry should be considered differently.  From my contacts with Russian professionals in the film industry, I realise that they are well aware of what succeeds in Ukraine, some of them even oppose with courage by demonstrating publicly their opposition to the war and their support to Ukraine.  As Joël Chapron has argued (Libération, 6 March 2022), the boycott of Russian artists if for them an unjustified double punishment. You should not make confusion between a State and its citizens.

Stas Prytula explains that the boycott of Russian films should not be considered as a cultural war but as a method of sensibilisation to the situation in Ukraine. I think, with all respect for him, that this is nonsense.

Will the Russian public opinion be influenced by the fact that the European Film Academy or the European festivals boycott their films ? Absolutely not. They will not be informed of this or if they are it will be by the media contributing to the Kremlin propaganda. They will explain to the people that this is a proof of a supposed Western « russophobia », as they already are doing. 

As I have explained to Stas Prytula, if the issue is to create awareness in the Russian public, which is an obvious and legitimate objective, then we should look collectively on more ambitious proposals.

With some colleagues specializing in the European audiovisual media matters, I have set up the Denis Diderot Committee ( to push a proposal of EU and EUTELSAT IGO sanctions against two Russian pay-TV platforms, NTV+ and Trikolor, using the satellites from the French company Eutelsat S.A. to broadcast the Russian channels with official war and racist propaganda but also to eliminate from their offer to the public audience of 8 international news channels.

We think that sanctions could allow Eutelsat S.A. (bound by a principle of neutrality) to take back control of the capacities of the important Eutelsat 36 E satellite to put them at disposal -in conditions to be determined – to a free-to-air package of international news channels, Russian speaking channels already existing in Estonia, Czech Republic and Ukraine and to possible independent Russian channels. And why not – if a solution for copyright is identified – a European film channels allowing the Russian audience to see European and Ukrainian films of which they have been deprived.

The Denis Diderot Committee has published a report and a petition to promote and obtain those sanctions. The petition was signed by various professors, researchers, lawyers, journalists and professionals in Europe and Canada. This includes the Chair and the General Secretary of the Société des auteurs de l’audiovisuel (SAA) and all the Members of the National Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting in Ukraine, the regulatory authority in this country.  We have also the support of the European Federation of Journalists and of the International Federation of Journalists who have filed an alert in the Council of Europe Platform for Journalists Safety. Other national organisations of professional journalists in Germany, Luxembourg and Quebec have also notified their support.

I would appreciate if you could submit to the Members of the Academy the proposal for replacing the boycott decision by a collective adhesion of the Academy to the petition of the Denis Diderot Committee.

In the meantime, Members of the Academy are invited either to contact us to sign the petition ( or sign it online on the Avaaz platform :

And I hope that Unclenching the Fists  by Kira Kovalenko will be part of the next selection.

Thank you for your attention.

Kind regards.

Dr. André Lange

Member of the European Film Academy

Coordinator of the Denis Diderot Committee

P.S. 25 April 2022. I thank Matthijs Wouter Knol for his swift answer :

Dear André Lange,

Thank for your e-mail. I understand your concern and appreciate your active engagement.

The European Film Academy’s decision to boycott Russian films at this year’s European Film Awards has been taken in a democratic voting process by the Board of the Academy, not by myself. As you are a member yourself, you are well aware the Board represents all members. Decisions by the Board are therefore decisions that represent the membership of the Academy. If you disagree with the decision taken by the Board, you can reach out to Board member(s) representing you. Of course I will make sure your thoughts will be shared with the Board at our next meeting.

The Academy generally does not share petitions with all members, due to the fact that we would have to send several every week. For the petition, your own social media channels would be most effective I think. The group on Facebook, which is for everybody interested in European film (which is administered primarily by our social media agency) is not posting petitions, but merely focuses on sharing information about European cinema and notable people working in it. Thank you for understanding.

As far as your film proposal UNCLENCHING THE FISTS directed by Kira Kovalenko is concerned, please know that this film was already part of last year’s Feature Film Selection. Mukharam Kabulova won the Excellence Award EUROPEAN EDITING for he work on this outstanding film (for the list of winners please see here).

In case you have further questions, feel free to let me know.

Yours sincerely,

Matthijs Wouter Knol

My answer

Dear Matthijs,

Thank you for your quick answer to my letter.

As a matter of fact, I missed the fact that UNCLENCHING THE FISTS directed by Kira Kovalenko was already in the selection last year. The selection last year was so rich and due to the fact that I had viewed very few films in theater due to the pandemic, that I missed the film in the selection. I regret it as I should have voted for it.

I understand of course that the decision on the boycott of Russian films is not yours but the decision of the Board. Nevertheless, for such an important decision, I think a consultation with the members could have been done.  I thank you for forwarding my letter to the members of the Board. 

I hope the Board will have the possibility of reviewing the decision and considering more efficient proposals for supporting Ukraine and the Russian civil society than the boycott. 

The proposal by the Denis Diderot Committee of asking Eutelsat S.A. to stop its collaboration with Russian pay-TV platforms and to EU and EUTELSAT IGO to, take sanctions to urge this decision is collecting more and more support and it would be great if the Academy or the individual Academy members could contribute to promote it.

News on the growing support are listed here  Please keep ;posted as more is coming in the days to come. 

I hope we will have the possibility to see Russian and Ukrainian films in the next selection.

Kind regards.


The European Union  must stop transmission of two major Russian platforms NTV Plus and Trikolor by European Eutelsat satellites 


  • Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the Council of the European Union
  • Mr. Charles Michel, President of the European Council
  • Mrs. Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission
  • Mrs. Roberta Metsola, President of the European Parliament
  • Mrs. Marija Pejčinović Burić, General Secretary of the Council of Europe
  • Mr. Piotr Dmochowski-Lipski Executive Secretary of EUTELSAT IGO
  • Mr. Dominique d’Hinnin, Chairman of the Board of Director, Eutelsat SA.

  • Since early March, 8 Western news channels were excluded from transmission through Eutelsat 36E satellites by two Russian leading  pay-TV providers, NTV Plus and Trikolor. Those two providers are the main source of news for 25 to 30 % of the Russian population.
  • The European Union and the EUTELSAT IGO should take sanctions against those two providers, pretexting that the Western broadcasters have taken the decision to withdraw from the market.
  • This would liberate capacities for allowing an offer of democratic, pluralist, fair Western channels and possible Russian opposition channels reaching up to 40 % of Russian TV households.
  • Around 40 entertainment TV services owned or licensed by 12 international media groups are still licensing their channels to those two Russian operators. They should withdraw from the market in solidarity with the news channels.

Since the beginning of March, in the context of the war in Ukraine and new restrictions on freedom of expression imposed by the Russian government, two Russian platforms, NTV Plus (part of the Gazprom Media Holding) and Trikolor have excluded from their line-up all the foreign news channels they were still proposing in February: BBC World, CNN, Deutsche Welle (DW), Euronews (in Russian), France 24, NHK World,  RAINews 24, TV5 Monde .

Those two pay-TV packagers operate on European satellites at 36°E owned by the company of French law Eutelsat S.A. (ISIN:FR0010221234; Ticker: ETL) and under the rules of the Convention of the intergovernmental organisation EUTELSAT IGO,

It is paradoxical and inadmissible that two European satellites are used for the sole broadcasting of Russian channels, which only propagate the official warrior line of the Kremlin and that Western news channels are banned from an infrastructure managed by a company under French law and in the framework of an intergovernmental convention !

These measures are part of a movement to completely restrict freedom of expression in Russia (law of March 4, 2022, organizing the repression of those who publish information contrary to the official version, indictment of journalists and bloggers, arrests mass demonstrators, restrictions on access to social networks, etc.).

The Russian Federation does not honor its international commitments to respect freedom of expression and the free flow of information. It is therefore necessary to find solutions that allow Russian civil society to continue to receive information and the diversity of points of view expressed in the rest of the world.

Sanctions taken by the European Union  against NTV Plus and Trikolor would allow Eutelsat to recover satellite capacities at position 36°E, which are estimated to allow access to around 40% of TV households in Russia, and to put them available to Western news channels and televisions created by Russian opponents in exile.

The European Union  and Eutelsat IGO should also verify that the banning of the Russian war propaganda channel RT decided the 2 of March is respected by all operators. According to various satellite trackers, RT News was still available on Eutelsat 36 E three weeks after the EU decision.

The European Union and the Council of Europe should make available to international news channels the means to provide Russian dubbed or subtitled versions of their services and help possible opposition television projects. Eutelsat should then permit these channels to be uplinked and broadcast on 36°E, thereby providing Russians with greater access to media other than state propaganda.

While 8 foreign news channels were banned from the Russian market at least 39 thematic channels owned or licensed by international media group are still distributed by NTV Plus. In continuing to do “business as usual” with the Gazprom subsidiary, AMC Networks (US), Comcast (US), Disney (US), LFP Inc. (US), ViacomCBS (US), WorldFashion Channel (US) Groupe Arnault (FR), Groupe M6 (FR),  Vivendi (FR), Marc Dorcel Netherlands (NL), Mindgeek Holding (LU), Viasat World Ltd (GB) contribute to the illusion of media pluralism within Russia.

This petition is launched by the Denis Diderot Committee. The Denis Diderot Committee was created on the initiative of two experts in the field of satellite television and is open to any citizen demanding peace in Ukraine, the restoration of the free flow of information, the prohibition of war propaganda and solidarity with Russian civil society fighting for freedom of expression.

Coordination :
–    Dr. André Lange, Paris, –        
–    Jim Phillipoff, Amsterdam ,

Please sign the petition on Avaaz here

First list of signataires (by alphabetical order)

  • Association luxembourgeoise des journalistes professionnels (ALJP) (LU)
  • Daniel & Rachel Barnon, Sleeping Giants (FR)
  • Prof. Francis Biesmans, BETA, Université de Lorraine, (FR) ; Attaché de recherche au COEF, Nelson Mandela University, (South Africa).
  • Alain Bourges, Video artist, retired teacher (FR)
  • Prof. Colette Brin, Professor at the Université Laval, Director of the Centre d’études sur les médias (Québec-Canada)
  • Olexandr Burmahin, Member, National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine
  • Joël Chapron, Associate Researcher, University of Avignon, Specialist of Central and Eastern Europe cinematograpghy
  • Oleg Chernysh, Deputy Chairman, National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine
  • Prof. Ian Christie, Professor of Film and Media history, Birkbeck College, University of London (UK)
  • Wolfgang Closs, former Executive Director of the European Audiovisual Observatory (DE)​
  • Prof. Christian Delporte, Professor of Contemporary History, Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines (FR)
  • Bernard Descôteaux, Former Director of the dailly Le Devoir (Québec – Canada)
  • Cécile Despringre, Executive Director of the Society of Audiovisual Authors (EU)
  • Prof. John Downey, President of the European Communication Research and Education Association, Professor of Comparative Media Analysis at Loughborough University (UK)
  • Jacques Godbout, Novelist and filmmaker, former Member of the Board  of TV-5 (Québec-Canada)
  • Geneviève Goëtzinger, Former Managing Director RFI, Chair ImaGGE, Paris (France)
  • Dr. Gert Hallenberger,  Media Researcher, Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Fernsehen and the Grimme-Preis (DE)
  • Barbara Hayes, Chair of the Society of Audiovisual Authors (EU), Deputy CEO of ALCS (GB)
  • Olha Herasymiuk, Chair, National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine
  • Markéta Hodouskova, Czech professional in the audiovisual industry, Paris
  • Prof. François Jongen, Professor of Media Law, UCLouvain (BE)
  • Isabelle Kersimon, Journalist, Founder of the Institut de recherches et d’études sur les radicalités (INRER), Paris (FR)
  • Valentyn Koval, First Deputy Chairman, National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine
  • André Lange, Former Head of Department at the European Audiovisual Observatory, Scientific collaborator at the University of Liege (BE)
  • Philippe Lévrier, former Member of French regulatory authority Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (FR)
  • Niklas Lindhe, Founder at ZeroFiber, CEO, Åhus, Sweden
  • Dr. Marta Materska-Samek, Assistant Professor of Jagiellonian University, Krakow (PL)
  • Arnaud Mercier, Professor of Information-Communication at the à University Paris-Panthéon-Assas, Responsable of the Licence Information Communication, Institut français de Presse (IFP) (FR)
  • Alain Modot, CEO of DIFFA (Distribution de Films et Fictions Africains) Paris  (FR)
  • Prof. Gilles Multigner, Professor of Media History, former journalist, University of Madrid (ES)
  • Dr. Felix Victor Münch, Postdoc Researcher at Leibniz-Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut (DE)
  • Michael Nguyen, Chair,  Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec (Québec – Canada)
  • Olena Nitsko, Executive Secretary, National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine
  • Maksym Onopriienko, Member, National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine
  • Richard Paterson, Research Associate, Centre for Cultural Policy Research, University of Glasgow (UK)
  • Jim Phillipoff, Media specialist and a former CEO of Ukrainian satellite platforms,  former CEO of Kyiv Post Media, Amsterdam
  • Philippe Reynaert, Film consultant, Xanadu (BE)
  • Olga Romanova, Director and Founder of the Rus Sitting Association, Foundation for assistance to convicts and their families, Moscow (RU)
  • Tetiana Rudenko, Member, National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine
  • Alain Saulnier, author, former DG of Information Services (French services) of Radio-Canada
  • Prof. Florian Sauvageau, former journalist, Professor emeritus, Université Laval, Québec
  • Dr. Ismo Silvo, Director YLE, Finnish Broadcasting Company (FI)
  • Dr. Bruno Somalvico, Editor in chief, Democrazia futura (IT)
  • Prof. Dick Tomasovic, Professor of film studies, University of Liege (BE)
  • Prof. Pierre Trudel, Professor of Law of Communication at the University of Montréal (Quebec – Canada)
  • Prof. Marc Vanesse, Professor of journalism and deontology of information, University of Liège (BE)
  • Prof. Thierry Watine, Professor at the  Departement of information and communication, Université Laval (Quebec-Canada)
  • Prof. Patrick White, Professour of Journalism Université du Québec à Montréal (Québec – Canada)
  • Prof. Dr. Andreas Joh. Wiesand, ERICarts Institute and Network / ARCult Media GmbH, Köln (DE)
  • Yurii Zinevych,  Member, National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine

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