Russian Dissident Gains Entry to Canada for Toronto Film Festival Premiere

Russian Dissident Gains Entry to Canada for Toronto Film Festival Premiere

Russian dissident Anastasia Shevchenko has managed to secure a Canadian visa to attend the Toronto Film Festival just hours before a short film about her, Anastasia, was set to screen here.

After a world premiere at Telluride for Australian director Sarah McCarthy’s film about Shevchenko, the Russian activist was unable to get across the U.S.-Canadian border after the Russian government put her on a wanted list.

But with red tape behind her, Shevchenko will attend the Scotiabank Theatre premiere on Friday afternoon. Delays or denials in securing a Canadian visa are an annual occurrence for the Toronto Film Festival, which invites directors and their film subjects and cast from around the world.

Among the factors considered when Canadian embassies weigh whether to allow entry into Canada is involved in criminal activity, and security or financial reasons.

McCarthy, who directed The Sound of Mumbai and The Dark Matter of Love, helmed the portrait of Shevchenko and her resistance to the Putin regime in Russia and how that has come at a cost. She was put under house arrest for two years and was found guilty of “organizing activity of an undesirable organization” for her work with the Open Russia movement. Amnesty International has declared Shevchenko a “prisoner of conscience.”

Toronto has not programmed any films this year by Russian directors and earlier barred attendance by film organizations and media outlets supported by the Russian state in light of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian military.

At the same time, Toronto has shown solidarity with Ukrainian film producers amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war by holding two industry panels with their participation at the Canadian festival’s 47th edition.