Azad Safarov is a Ukrainian producer working with Sky News journalists in Ukraine. He is also the assistant director and line producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary film A House Made of Splinters. Here he writes about going from the frontline to the red carpet.
do you like movies? I do, but sometimes real life is even crazier than the movies.
In a short time I’ve gone from being on the frontlines in Ukraine to preparing to walk the red carpet at the Oscars in Los Angeles. And it’s a weird feeling.
I was born in Azerbaijan to a poor family, and because of the war in Nagorny Karabakh and financial problems, my family decided to move to Ukraine. We settled in Donetsk and became Ukrainian citizens.
I was eight years old then, and even then, all I wanted to do was make films. My cousin and I filmed short sketches and dreamed of selling them to Hollywood.
My mother advised me to become a journalist, as she believed it was the most peaceful profession in Ukraine. But as soon as I graduated from university and moved to Kiev in 2014, protests broke out on the Maidan – and as a result war.
As a television journalist, I have worked all over Ukraine. Under fire on the front line, and in secret in the Russian-occupied zone of Ukraine.
I have to say, I feel more comfortable in a 12-kilogram bulletproof vest and helmet than in a black-tie tuxedo.
When I was told that I would be going to the ceremony, I applied for a 21-day special permit to leave the country.
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This was granted, and I decided that I wanted to wear a sweatshirt or a T-shirt, anything with inscriptions or the state coat of arms of Ukraine. But they explained to me that the organizers would not let me in, there is a strict dress code.
‘Deprived of the right to be happy’
I’ve been dreaming of this moment all my life.
I used to watch the Oscars and imagine winning; I imagine how proud my parents, friends and family would be if I ever win the award.
But now that the moment has come, and I have a nomination, I can’t say it loud enough or be happy about it.
“Aren’t you jumping with joy? It’s Oscar! It’s great!” My friends tell me all the time.
Of course, I’m happy, but the joy is mixed with sadness, because as long as I’m here in Los Angeles, every day on the frontlines in Ukraine, soldiers are dying literally every hour, protecting our country from our neighbor. Are.
I can’t post funny pictures on social media, because millions of Ukrainians are suffering from Russian aggression and missiles right now.
It seems that Russia has denied us the right to be happy, to be successful, to enjoy life, just to laugh out loud.
results of war
Our Oscar-nominated documentary film, A House Made of Splinters, is also about the consequences of the war.
The director is the talented Danish filmmaker Simon Lereng Vilmont, with whom I started working in 2015, and this is our second film from Ukraine. The first, The Distant Barking of Dogs, was Oscar shortlisted in 2019.
A House Made of Splinters is about children growing up in a makeshift shelter next to war. It’s sad, but at the same time, it’s a movie about hope. It’s about how Ukrainian children fight for their happiness, childhood and right to be in a family and feel loved, even as the war continues.
It’s an important story to tell, and we have an important mission that goes on.
I co-founded the NGO, Voice of Children Charitable Foundation, with documentary consultant and human rights activist Olena Rozvadowska, and after the Russian invasion, we helped evacuate thousands of children and their families from the frontlines. But the needs are only increasing.
The entire production team understands that we are competing at the Oscars with big companies and big names, with big budgets for advertising their nominees.
But winning would be incredible, in this dark time we want to give at least a little bit of happiness to the country, which is fighting for freedom and the happiness of freedom is for so long.
And with that in mind, I’ll go on ceremony and hope for the best. I’ll take two things with me: my father’s broken watch—he died when I was 13—and a brooch in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
And no, I won’t be disabling the Air Raid Alert app on my phone if there’s a notification about it from Ukraine, because for me the Oscars are just another platform to remind the world about the war.
You can watch the Academy Awards on Sunday 12 March at 11pm exclusively on Sky News and Sky Showcase. For everything you need to know ahead of the ceremony, don’t miss our exclusive Backstage podcast now, plus our special episode on the winners starting Monday morning.
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