On 26 April 2018 the Tribeca Film festival announced that the  award for the best narrative short movie had been presented to a turgid Russian Fascist propaganda movie,  “Phone Duty”, directed by Lenar Kamalov. The award displayed extraordinarily poor judgement. Phone Duty, judging by its 40 second trailer, is the aesthetic equivalent of having to wash Boris Johnson’s underpants by hand. The movie stars Zakhar Prilepin, a neo Nazi author wanted for terrorism in Ukraine, whose acting is as convincing as Donald Trump’s hair dye. The film’s mesmerisingly idiotic plot concerns a secret mission which involves answering phone calls. It’s rather as if Hitler had employed a market researcher to operate out of his bunker while Soviet tanks trundled past the ruins of the Adlon Hotel. How would you rate the Fuhrer’s performance on a scale of one to five where one is… Yet the assembled glitterati of Hollywood who attended the awards seem not to have noticed.

The Tribeca ward ensures that, perhaps for the first time, a Fascist propaganda film will be on the long list for an Oscar. It also legitimises Russia’s invasion of Ukraine’s Donbas and a Russian intelligence curated organisation that has committed war crimes. Here are a few facts about the cast of this film and its setting that Tribeca failed to notice.

Zakhar Prilepin is an enthusiastic supporter of the National Bolshevik Party. Here is their flag. I would like to ask Tribeca if it reminds them of anything? The NatsBol party aims to combine the worst elements of Communism and Nazism, glorifying both Stalin and Hitler. 

The National Bolshevik Flag… proud emblem of Zakhar Prilepin, who might be in contention for an Oscar, thanks to Tribeca!

Prilepin entered Ukraine illegally in 2014 with the express purpose of committing armed violence on the basis of this toxic ideology. He’s  a big fan of fellow NatsBol graduate Dugin who believes that Ukrainians deserve “genocide” and are a race of “bastards that have emerged from the sewer.” Where have we encountered that kind of talk before now, Tribeca? In another Fascist flick”The Eternal Jew” (1940) a shot of rats emerging from a sewer is followed by a shot of Jews in the street. Still comfortable with giving this movement a boost, Tribeca?

Dugin was one of the handlers of the forces glorified in “Phone Duty” in 2014 as he sought to roll out his doomed genocidal campaign across Ukraine.

Alexandr Dugin calling for a genocide of Ukrainians on Facebook… his movement is now basking in the positive publicity of the Tribeca award

Prilepin, Dugin’s pupil, is wanted for terrorism by the Ukrainian government. His books are popular amongst those organising teams of murderous Russian Nazi misfits to go on adventure holidays in Ukraine. Here, for example, is an e mail from Vyacheslav Oskolkov, a Russian who sponsors terrorism in the Donbas, to his wife with some of Prilepin’s  books attached:

And all because the lady loves… Neo Nazi novels. If any of you guys out there are looking for gift ideas for your wife…Image courtesy of Eugene Dokukin. Follow his work here

When Russia’s regular troops invaded Ukraine’s Donbas there was no separatist movement, so they had to dish out guns to local drunks, low lifes  and Nazis, who then pretended to be an independence fighters. These were topped up with Fascist and Nazi misfits from Russia, dispatched by Prilepin inspired imbeciles such as Oskolkov, and backed up with massive Russian military support. A small size Nazi army under Russian military command. These Fascists pretended to be two independent republics, the DNR and the LNR. Here is Pavel Gubarev, the first leader of the “DNR” which the film Tribeca honoured glorifies. Does the symbol he is posing in front of remind you of anything Tribeca? Take your time now

DNR leader Pavel Gubarev a member of Russia’s “I can’t believe it’s not a Nazi” Party

I have spoken with people who have described random murders committed by the DNR forces basking in Tribeca’s extraordinary ill judged award.  These Fascists, along with the Russian army, have also committed larger scale war crimes in Ukraine. Bellingcat recently analysed one of many such atrocities, the shelling of Mariupol in January 2015. The attack killed at least 29 people and wounded 90.  The Russian army and their Fascist helpmates use Ukrainian civilians as human shields. They launch artillery strikes from residential areas to compel Ukraine’s army to return fire,  and cause civilian casualties. Putin is quite open about this strategy. In 2014 he said his forces would shelter behind Ukrainian civilians and then see if the Ukrainian military dared shoot their own people.  And if the Ukrainian army don’t return fire, these Nazis shell the areas under their control. Sometimes in order to blame the Ukrainian army. And sometimes just for fun.

The conflict is part of a wider war against the west. Prilepin and his cronies hate the US, the homeland of the Tribeca festival. He fantasises about a coalition of Russia, North Korea, and other foes of the states. Many of the Nazis he fights alongside dream of standing in the ruins of the Pentagon. Prilepin himself argues that the Third World War has begun. Are you happy to have helped a man who wants to see the destruction of the US, Tribeca? Russia is conducting a hybrid war against Ukraine and the west, part of which involves manipulating perceptions via culture. It’s rather as if back in the early days of World War 2 Tribeca had honoured a Japanese film glorifying the heroism of Mitsubishi pilots prior to Pearl Harbour. The west may think it can fight for its freedom to the last Ukrainian soldier. But Putin is losing his war in Ukraine while winning his campaign to fuck up western society thanks to “useful idiots.” 

Tribeca have helped Putin’s war against the west. They have honoured a Fascist propaganda movie entirely without artistic merit and given a boost to a man wanted for terrorism in Ukraine and a Russian curated bunch of Nazi terrorists. They have potentially provided a ticket to the Oscars for a Fascist who plays at being a soldier while hiding behind defenceless civilians.  They have encouraged devotees of two ideologies which between them, caused over a 100 million deaths last century. That’s pretty groundbreaking. After all what’s a genocide or two when set against the aesthetic merit of a bald Nazi shouting down a telephone? Perhaps budding directors among the ranks of Hezbollah, Isis, Al Quaeda and Stormfront might be encouraged to enter for the Tribeca 2019 awards? After all racist ideology and terrorism seem to be A Okay by Tribeca, if this award is anything to go by.

Steve Komarnyckyj is a PEN award winning literary translator and poet whose work is published by Kalyna Language Press and features on the PEN World Bookshelf. You can e mail him on komarnyckyj.steve(at)gmail.com