Ukraine probes claims of child torture on film set

KIEV: Ukrainian prosecutors opened an inquiry on Wednesday into possible child torture on the set of an art-house film.

Viewers shared images on social media from the film “DAU: Degeneration”, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February, showing crying children undergoing medical experiments.

Russian filmmaker Ilya Khrzhanovsky built a set in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv resembling a Soviet-era physics institute where participants lived and worked for nearly three years.

“These are children for whom participating in such filming can be trauma for life,” children’s ombudsman Mykola Kuleba wrote on Facebook on Wednesday.

In response, the filmmakers wrote a letter to the Kharkiv Times newspaper saying the medical equipment was fake and the children were accompanied by their guardians.

“All actions by the film crew were agreed with child services,” wrote Khristina Voloshyna, director of the firm that organised the filming in 2011.

The Prosecutor-General said it was investigating whether “a group of people possibly inflicted physical pain and moral suffering on minors, likely orphans, by violent actions in the process of film production”.

This is not the first controversy.

In 2018, “DAU” scandalised Germany with its plans to rebuild the Berlin Wall and offer visitors an immersive experience of daily life behind the Iron Curtain.

Eighteen months later, “DAU” again caused shock and outrage in the German capital with the world premiere of its film “DAU: Natasha” at the Berlin film festival.

One film critic at local broadcaster RBB refused to write a traditional review of the film, pointing to accusations of abuse against Khrzhanovsky.

Following a harrowing interrogation scene in which a woman is sexually abused on-screen, Fabian Wallmeier wrote that he “left the cinema with my knees shaking”.