Jailed Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov released the first glimpse of his new dystopian movie, Numbers, at this year’s Odesa International Film Festival.
Based on Sentsov’s play of the same name, the feature film is being co-directed by Sentsov from his prison cell in Russia via letters and email.
A teaser for the project, which is currently in post-production, was screened at the festival on 13 July — the date of Sentsov’s 43rd birthday.
The picture portrays a closed society led by the mysterious Zero, who establishes a series of rules which remain both strict and absurd. The Numbers follow Zero’s rules, until one man, Seven, begins to disobey.
Sharing the director’s chair is Ukrainian filmmaker Akhtem Seitablayev, with Ukrainian producer Anna Palenchuk and president of the Polish Film Academy, Dariusz Jabłoński, co-producing. Both the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and the Polish Film Institute have provided financial backing the film.
Oleg Sentsov was arrested in May 2014, shortly after conflict broke out between Ukraine and Russian-supported forces. The award-winning director, best known for his film Gamer, was sentenced to 20 years in prison following accusations that he had planned to blow up a statue of Lenin and set fire to the offices of a pro-Kremlin political party. A number of human rights groups have called on the case to be retried, warning that the trial could have been politically-motivated.
Sentsov, who denies all charges, went on to stage a 145-day hunger strike in 2018 demanding that the Kremlin release over 60 Ukrainian prisoners from jails in Russia and Crimea.
The OIFF, long a vocal backer of Sentsov, drew attention to his absence by playing a 20-second clip about his imprisonment before each of the festival’s screenings.