Liev Schreiber Urges Media to Stop Talking about the War in Ukraine and Start Raising Money
At the 56th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, multi-talented American actor, screenwriter and director Liev Schreiber attended the opening premiere, eighteen years after his last appearance.
Schreiber, best known for his iconic role as Ray Donovan for which he received five Golden Globe nominations, held a KVIFF press day on July 2, 2022 and talked about his recent visit to Ukraine while discussing his BlueCheck Ukraine Project which he co-founded. “I went with the expectation that I’d have a gigantic garbage bag and would just fill it with money because I was raising for Ukraine,” said Schreiber. “But actually, what happened is people approached me and asked how they could file for donations from BlueCheck.”
“I’m an American who also has Ukrainian ancestry,” he explained further. “My grandfather came from Ukraine. We were very close to him, everything I did was based on his life.” When Russia invaded Ukraine this year, Schreiber began to rethink what it means to be Ukrainian.
“I didn’t have much of a clue,” he said. He absorbed it when he saw men of his own age, artists, hugging their children and saying goodbye to their wives, taking up arms ready to fight a war, not knowing if they would see their families again. “For me, it was proof of resilience, and also a reminder that I’m not Ukrainian. I sit comfortably in New York and do nothing. And my children sit around me and see how I’m doing nothing,” he described the moment he decided to help.
What Schreiber remembers most while visiting Lviv last May was the incredible energy there. “It was as if they were celebrating. They wanted to fight; they are extremely resilient. There is no doubt that Ukrainians have a fighting spirit,” said Schreiber who helped bring refugees to Poland, took care of food supplies and even lent a hand in the cooking department.
During his trip, Schreiber also met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “The first thing he said was the following sentence: ‘You are much braver than you think you are.’ When the question was raised as to what needed to be done for people not to forget the war in Ukraine, he responded: ‘The situation over there needs to be continually remembered.’” Schreiber continued, “I see America as a nation of grandchildren, and I see Europe the same way. We are all connected by an intimate story. We have to solve it (the situation in Ukraine) now before it’s going to be knocking on the door.”
The actor also gave his thoughts on the controversial topic of Russian films being shown at big film festivals (after Cannes, Karlovy Vary has become the latest international festival to defend the inclusion of a Russian film). “I struggle with the idea of boycotting any kind of art or expression. Having said that, the reason I believe Ukraine is going to win is because they are trying to come out of this on the right side of history. I believe that’s because they have the truth on their side. What’s in play right now is the truth. One of the things I love about being in the arts is the idea that if it’s true, it’s worth knowing. If it’s true,” said the actor.
However, he warned against misinformation that spreads through artistic propaganda, not just the media. “We have to be careful. “Putin is counting on chaos and misinformation.”
Schreiber often tells his kids, “You can lie, but the problem is somebody is always going to find out. If you lie, imagine the moment that you’re found out and how embarrassing that’s going to be. I’d like to say that to Mr. Putin.”
At the moment, Shreiber has no plans to make a film about the war. “While there probably is a great powerful, useful story to be told, the time for telling it is not right now for it’s still so acute.” The actor added jokingly: “Besides, I’m not that guy, I’m too tall to play Zelenskyy.”
Shreiber got emotional when asked how he deals with his own feelings when seeing so much misery. “If it’s possible to use a celebrity for something good, it is good,” he said. “You don’t have a private life, but it’s all worth it if it changes something for the better, for my family and for the world. We value celebrity in our culture and so if a celebrity can be channeled to something useful, it’s a good thing. And I think we have the power to do that. We need to remember what’s important to us, what our values are and who we are and how we got here and who got us here. So, I feel very fortunate. When I asked Iolanta [someone he interviewed in Ukraine] a strategic question: what would you say to influence people to get off their asses and do something for this cause? I was moved when she said: ‘Hold the people that you love close to you.’ That makes me emotional, for that is humanism at its finest.”
Donations can be made at bluecheck.in/donate