We, Belarusian film journalists, critics and researchers, take part in Red Heather award in order to highlight Belarusian cinema and celebrate filmmakers’ work and their best achievements.
The award was started amidst the deep humanitarian crisis in Belarus, which inevitably affected its cinema as well. At that time, Minsk International Film Festival "Listapad", which used to award the best Belarusian films, had already been destroyed as a relatively independent entity. Over time, not a single offline independent film festival was left in the country, and most of the independent filmmakers were forced to either emigrate or suspend their creative activities.
However, despite the dire state of our cinema, which consequently also turned migrant, we see that it remains honest, ingenious and professional, and we believe in its creative potential. We expect that the films of Belarusian filmmakers, like art in general, will help society to reflect on its history and present reality, as well as to deal with the psychological and social consequences of the crisis we find ourselves in. We hope that cinema as a part of culture will allow us to soften the blows that we have been experiencing since 2020.
As film journalists, critics and researchers, we are interested in tracking the film process and analyzing its trends, as well as creating a context for Belarusian cinema, even if there is no domestic film industry as such. We have to admit that the socio-political crisis in Belarus, as well as Russia's war against Ukraine, in which Aliaksandr Lukashenka's regime is a co-aggressor, fundamentally changed the definition of Belarusian cinema for us. Red Heather award includes those who are Belarusians by citizenship or nationality and self-definition and work either in Belarus or abroad. However, we exclude the films that were fully or partially created with the money of the Belarusian or Russian state, as well as filmmakers who closely and knowingly cooperate with state or pro-state organizations and institutions of these two countries – until the governments of these countries become democratic.
This division of cinema into state funded and independent one had existed in Belarus before 2020, but was not as pronounced. In today's conditions, though, it has turned into a fundamental division: working for the money of a criminal state, or working in exile, or underground. We respect the right of each of our colleagues to make their own decisions regarding cooperation with the state, taking into account their own circumstances and opportunities, but looking at how Belarusian and Ukrainian societies suffer from the actions of Belarusian authorities, and how Belarusian cinema has suffered from them, we feel compelled to draw a clear line.
Red Heather award is meant to strengthen the ties of the scattered community of Belarusian filmmakers, as well as of our film critics’ community; popularize Belarusian cinema and its achievements; highlight the need for their cinema and motivate filmmakers to stay in the profession.
We hope that the achievement of these goals will contribute to the development of Belarusian cinema, which in turn will contribute to democratic transformations in Belarus, where creativity, diversity and freedom of expression will reign supreme.