At the end of February 2022, I flew to Hollywood. The feature-length documentary film Brexit Through the Non-political Glass had been selected for the Golden State International Film Festival, which was taking a place at the TCL Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Boulevard.
When we received the invitation to submit our film to the festival in December 2021, we were over the moon to have it screened at the theatre. We hadn’t had a world premiere yet and knew that opportunities like this don’t come along often. The festival confirmed that the showing would take place on 1 March 2022.
Arriving in Hollywood – for the first time after Covid restrictions – was as exciting as ever. All those emotions of having a film premiere in the exclusive cinema for the festival, along with meeting friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, were bubbling inside me. But it wasn’t like before, Hollywood had changed. The Boulevard was empty, many stores were still shut, Starbucks was closed for indoor service, people were still wearing masks, restaurants’ last orders were at 8.30pm and festival audiences were small in numbers. For us in England, those days were long gone following the government’s rolling out of the third vaccine. Everyone by then had accepted that we must live with Covid. Hollywood was, it appeared, pretty much still feeling the pain.
And not just Hollywood. Most of the world was united in a new grief for the massacre of innocent people, including children, in Ukraine – The Story of Europe! Are we repeating it again, and this time so much more cruelly? Everyone around me was safe and well, the lives of many were just going on, the same routine, free of murder and torture, but on our doorsteps of democracy one nation is hit again. How could this happen?
The war in Ukraine started days before my arrival to LA. I felt horrible, guilty that I was in this amazing place of dreams: Hollywood, empty but still full of hope and promise – like always, for everyone and for every generation. I couldn’t do much, but I showed my support to the people of Ukraine by wearing vyshyvanka, a Ukrainian national dress. I have many, in all different colours and patterns. A different one for every day. For the premiere, red, day two, black, day three, blue… Few people did ask me if I was from Ukraine, but no, sadly I had never been there was my answer.
I had never imagined that I would be walking at 11am on a Tuesday morning in a deserted Hollywood Boulevard. It felt comparable to the film I had directed and produced. We had filmed it entirely throughout Covid, observing social distancing between crew members and travelling in bubbles. I was comforted by thinking, maybe this is one of the ‘right time at the right place’ scenarios.
The premiere went well. LA-based Erez Koskas, the composer of the original soundtrack of the film was also there. We met some other artists who also had films at the festival.
Directors of the festival Peter Greene and Jon Gursha went the extra mile to organise the event in challenging conditions, and we all appreciated this. We were finally without our chains, although everything around us was still in recovery.
Friday was the awards ceremony. What a lovely event and there we all were in healthy numbers. Some were still a bit uncomfortable, keeping a distance, some were still wearing a face mask and most of us were just so happy: to be there, to be with people, to chat and to see other filmmakers. Although many of us were excited and thrilled that we were erasing the invisible walls of the lockdown on the other side of the planet, in Europe the walls of freedom, sovereignty and state were intruded by a villainous leader and his oligarch army.
Every day our talks were not just about the interesting films (and I must say that the selection was incredible, thanks to Peter and Jon’s team behind it). We entered the cinema talking about the war in Ukraine and that’s how we left it as well.
Despite the fact Covid rules were prominent, there were many of us attending the final- celebration night. Who were the winners? How exciting and how disappointing when you hear so many names, but yours is not among them. And just when I thought, when all the awards were done, ‘it is what it is, our film is just not for everyone and a bit outside the protocol’, while looking for the bar, I heard Brexit Through the Non-political Glass Grand Prize announced for Best Documentary Film. OMG! The blood was pumping through me at speed, and it all felt surreal. Was it possible? Thank you, Golden State film festival! Thank you, Hollywood. I can’t wait to come back!
Executive Producer Tosh Kojima, Nina Kojima, Composer Erez Koskas
Film director Scott Slone (Malibu Horror Story)