It was with shock and dismay that we at IDFA received the news of the murder of Russian documentary film director and producer Alexander Rastorguev and his colleagues, journalist Orkhan Dzhemal and cameraman Kirill Radchenko, in the Central African Republic on July 31 while shooting a new documentary film there.
First and foremost, we send our deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of Alexander, Kirill and Orkhan. We stand with you and send you our compassion and solidarity from Amsterdam.
It is highly disconcerting to learn that Mr Dzhemel published an article in a Russian newspaper before heading to the CAR, in which he clarified the purpose of the team's trip: to make a documentary film exposing the practices of a private mercenary company with links to Russia operating in CAR, as well as in Syria and Ukraine, fighting side by side with Russian-supported parties in these three conflicts. We understand that the three brave men were murdered in the Central African Republic by unidentified assailants who, reportedly, ambushed their car at night.
It is alarming to all filmmakers and journalists everywhere when colleagues are killed on the job and when the perpetrators believe they can silence truth through murder. We know that one day a filmmaker, a journalist and a cameraman will investigate this horrendous crime. We believe the truth cannot be silenced.
The safety and the wellbeing of filmmakers and journalists are the responsibility of the governments of the countries where they work; this is also a global responsibility. Freedom of speech is a universal human right and cannot be granted or denied according to the convenience of those in power. Furthermore, we believe that the film community itself has a responsibility towards its members. It is our collective responsibility, as film professionals, to advocate for every filmmaker who courageously takes on the risk of confronting power.
While we remember Alexander and his colleagues, we do not forget Oleg Sentsov in his ongoing hunger strike, and we invite all filmmakers everywhere to join us in demanding his immediate freedom.
Alexander Rastorguev was born in Rostov-on-Don in 1971. He graduated from St-Petersburg State Theatre Arts Academy in 1998 and worked as a director and producer. He was known for documentaries that were highly critical of Putin's regime, such as The Term, which chronicled the Russian opposition movement. Three of his documentaries were screened at IDFA: The Pure Thursday (2003), Tender's Heat, Wild Wild Beach (co-directed with Vitaly Mansky, 2006), The Term (2014) and is a producer of a recent IBF-supported project.
Orkhan Dzhemal was born in Moscow in 1966. He was a well-known Russian journalist and a highly-respected war reporter. He previously worked as a special correspondent for the Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
Kirill Radchenko, 33, was a war cameraman who had worked in Chechnya and more recently was embedded with Russian and Syrian armies in Syria, reporting for the Abkhazia news agency.