What is the actual justification for not using Russian/Eastern European actors for Chernobyl?

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  • edited May 2019
    Lordby said:
    I don’t know guys, the art has to stand up on its own merits to some extent in addition to casting and production decisions, and I think this show has done a good job telling the story, perhaps despite the actors telling it or perhaps because of them. 
    THIS. Let's take the money out of the equation (and I'm not saying that it isn't part of it), and we're left with the filmmakers and actors who are, first and foremost, artists. No other artform gets as much scrutiny and outrage from people as filmmakers. What's next? You're not allowed to be an opera singer unless you're Italian? Or a salsa dancer unless you're Cuban? Or is a Norwegian painter not allowed to paint a Japanese landscape? I understand the need to not be offensive to other cultures, but where the fuck does it end?

    And if we put money back into the equation: if Eastern Europeans did this show, nobody would have seen it. How many foreign films does an average native English speaker watch? How many Eastern European? Come on, nobody gives a shit even about the foreign film category of the Oscars. Netflix is doing a bunch of local productions, but not many of them are successful. HBO does as well but I'm not even sure if they are available internationally.
  • JaimieTJaimieT Atlanta, GA
    edited May 2019
    Chinaski said:
    i don't mean to rock the boat (i'm just asking).. but what if the same cast did the a mini-series about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster? or if Russians did a movie about about 9/11?

    You should work for Fox News. ;) I could see "the Russians did a movie about 9/11" working really well there. Prime material for manufactured outrage. Otherwise I doubt anyone here would know or care.
  • Trying to catch up with this thread I was getting more and more confused about the direction of the conversation seemingly going off-topic. Then I noticed that it says 'actors' in the title. I could've sworn that the topic started with 'accents' instead. Is it my mistake or has OP deliberately changed 'accents' to 'actors'?
  • Chinaski said:
    i don't mean to rock the boat (i'm just asking).. but what if the same cast did the a mini-series about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster? or if Russians did a movie about about 9/11?
    I don’t know that the Russians could make a more offensive movie about 9/11 than we in the US have already inflicted upon ourselves (Loose Change for example), and it would be seen by less people than the worse homegrown versions, so other than the outrage peddlers it wouldn’t move the needle much.

    The Fukushima question is an interesting one because of the racial aspect. I think you could pull it off artistically as long as nobody pretended to be Asian in any way and just told the story. It’d be super-controversial, much more than this series, and you’d be held to a much higher standard because of that. I wouldn’t recommend the attempt, but if it was made and got rave reviews I’d watch it.
  • LordBy said:
    Chinaski said:
    i don't mean to rock the boat (i'm just asking).. but what if the same cast did the a mini-series about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster? or if Russians did a movie about about 9/11?
    I don’t know that the Russians could make a more offensive movie about 9/11 than we in the US have already inflicted upon ourselves (Loose Change for example), and it would be seen by less people than the worse homegrown versions, so other than the outrage peddlers it wouldn’t move the needle much.

    The Fukushima question is an interesting one because of the racial aspect. I think you could pull it off artistically as long as nobody pretended to be Asian in any way and just told the story. It’d be super-controversial, much more than this series, and you’d be held to a much higher standard because of that. I wouldn’t recommend the attempt, but if it was made and got rave reviews I’d watch it.

    Yea using white actors for a Fukushima movie would be a total shit-show - there is a long history of Hollywood whitewashing Asian characters and stories, and it's only recently been getting more attention in the mainstream as being a problem. And to ARon's point point while it certainly could be problematic casting Brits as Eastern European's, the fact that we consider them all to be "white" certainly changes the framing of the issue.
  • Interesting excerpt from this article: https://meduza.io/en/feature/2019/05/30/i-was-there-and-i-don-t-want-to-watch-this-anymore giving Slava Malamud's take on art, historical accuracy, and artistic license vs. propaganda:

    "When I was a sports journalist, the nature of the job meant watching films like “Legend No. 17” [about Soviet hockey player Valery Kharlamov] and “Going Vertical” [about the Soviet national basketball team’s controversial 1972 Olympic gold medal], and I couldn’t understand how it was possible that there are these very well documented events, many of the participants are still alive, and the result is still this wildly distorted reality — and these Russian movies are actually about Russia — their own country — not some foreign land. Why don’t Russian screenwriters respect their own history as much as some American from Brooklyn? My colleagues talked to the writers [of those Russian sports movies], and they said: hey, we’re not making a documentary film here. But there’s a difference between artistic license and the unabashed distortion of facts and details. I think Craig Mazin understands the boundary here, whereas Russian screenwriters deliberately overstep it, for their own reasons. It probably has something to do with politics or whatever messages they want to communicate. But Mazin, who had no motivation to invent his own version of events, decided by virtue of his own convictions to create a high-quality product. [Mazin told The Chernobyl Podcast that the show’s extreme attention to detail is meant as a tribute to the nuclear disaster’s survivors.]

    At the time, one film that made a big impression on me was “The Detached Mission” — a Soviet action movie about karate, basically. It had these American characters who were played mainly by Balts because of their “Western” appearance. And I can still remember there was this American general who played golf wearing an Iowa State football hat. In other words, even back then, Soviet directors could create these authentic things and provide details that the average Soviet viewer might not recognize, but which work on a subconscious level, and you knew you were looking at a real American, not some caricature. Now they’ve got other priorities: they’re not telling the real story, but something else they’ve cooked up. Even in these films about sports, about Kharlamov or about basketball, it’s clear that the director is showing us what these events mean for him, and not for the people who were there. That’s why the characters feel like cardboard and the foreigners come off as caricatures. Art takes a back seat to propaganda.

    What Mazin is doing is true art. He’s put himself in the heads of people from another country in another era. It’s clear that [Svetlana] Alexievich’s book made a big impression on him."

    kojiattwoodFlukes
  • I mean we have 9/11 conspiracy shows, Moon Landing was faked shows, flat earth is real shows, vaccination conspiracy shows, JFK conspiracy shows, alien abduction as relatity shows, Dinesh D’Souza movies, ghost hunters, finding Bigfoot, ancient aliens, etc.

    While we don’t have the state-directed history-rewriting propaganda to the extent of the old Soviet Union (yet), you can find all kinds of crazy shit in the US. It wouldn’t be hard for an insular culture to cherry pick US media to make us look like a bunch of whack-jobs totally disconnected from reality.

    It perversly makes the society more durable from outside propaganda though. The Russians can’t do a hit piece about how 9/11 was an inside job or how the holocaust didn’t happen with any efficacy because we’ve already done that probably with better production values than they would. That seems to be changing for the worse recently though with the proliferation of divisive fake news though, some of it from Russia and quite effective.
    gguenot
  • Teresa from ConcordTeresa from Concord Concord, California
    I am not commenting on any opinion. But I am amazed by all the generalizations made. “Nobody cares - Everyone cares - Americans think - Russians would.” When I see words like this there is less chance I’ll give the opinion a second thought. 
  • toncica said:
    Trying to catch up with this thread I was getting more and more confused about the direction of the conversation seemingly going off-topic. Then I noticed that it says 'actors' in the title. I could've sworn that the topic started with 'accents' instead. Is it my mistake or has OP deliberately changed 'accents' to 'actors'?
    I didn’t change anything. 
  • toncica said:
    Trying to catch up with this thread I was getting more and more confused about the direction of the conversation seemingly going off-topic. Then I noticed that it says 'actors' in the title. I could've sworn that the topic started with 'accents' instead. Is it my mistake or has OP deliberately changed 'accents' to 'actors'?
    I didn’t change anything. 
    My mistake then, apologies.

    On youtube I have seen quite a lot comments from eastern european people describing how they remember that time and the Chernobyl incident. They praise the show for the accuracy and none seem to be bothered by the british actors. 
  • DeeDee Adelaide
    edited May 2019
    I am not commenting on any opinion. But I am amazed by all the generalizations made. “Nobody cares - Everyone cares - Americans think - Russians would.” When I see words like this there is less chance I’ll give the opinion a second thought. 
    It’s not possible to have a discussion about something like this without using generalities. Everyone has different opinions, they can’t all be accounted for. You (general) can only base whatever your argument is on the general feeling/trend/anecdata and why you agree or disagree with it. 
    JaimieTLordByOldGriswold
  • cdrivecdrive Houston, TX
    Foucauldian analysis of Chernobyl is warranted. It’s warranted on everything nowadays. Kudos to the feedback writer talking about power structures. 
    Flukes
  • It is a bit of an amusing Hollywood trope that every non-American nationality in the Western world can be portrayed by British actors. Revolutionary France, Ancient Rome, any part of WWII Europe, Louis XIV's court, French Beast's castle, Renaissance Italy, and yes, all eras of Russia. Look at the upcoming Catherine the Great starring Helen Mirren. 

    That said, they may have had a lost opportunity here. They could have plundered the cast of the recently ended The Americans to fill the mini's ranks. 
  • lengmolengmo RTP, NC
    IDK, the casting seems fine compared with some films...

    "The film is set during World War II and centres upon the letters written by Mohandas Gandhi (Avijit Dutt) to Adolf Hitler (Raghubir Yadav), and around the relationship of Hitler with his long-term lover Eva Braun (Neha Dhupia), whom he married in his final days in the Berlin bunker in which they died. The film depicts the difference between the ideologies of Gandhi and Hitler and claims the superiority of Gandhism over Nazism."


  • I think a lot of this depends on who is making the movie and where they are making it. When similar complaints come up, it’s usually group X is underrepresented as actors in Hollywood, so this American production should use as many as possible. I feel like that argument is usually 50/50 between getting a more true-to-life character (on screen reason) and being an affirmative action solution for casting.

    I don’t know that those factors apply here. While OP may legit be offended that this casting happened this way, I don’t know that there is a large swath of Ukrainian actors in Hollywood that needed this work (same goes true for a British film company). Those conversations usually imply there has been bias against casting people from that group in the past. 

    As as far as on screen, I could say maybe Ukrainian actors might bring something to the role. That is very subjective. I don’t know the logistics of getting quality actors, but I don’t feel that burden of proof should be on hbo.

    Did anyone feel this way about Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell during the Americans? That show had actors from all over pretending to be Soviets. If not, is it because they mixed in actual people of Russian heritage?
  • sounds like they got a Georgian character (Bacho) right on in terms of the accent and look:




    awookiee
  • I just watched a few foreign language films that were excellent and their RT scores are in the 90s. But the actors are just not on par with the brits and Americans. The movies were excellent and well acted. But I totally see and understand not just from a commercial perspective but from a qualitative perspective to go with British actors. There is a talent gap and unfortunately it will probably only get worse if productions continue to rely on staffing the actors from well known and proven areas. 
    awookiee
  • Rewatching "The Hunt for Red October", I had forgotten they did an interesting choice of having Connery and a couple other actors actually speak in Russian (Connery's Scrussian accent is...interesting) and at a certain point they switch over to English. 
    rkcrawf
  • Rewatching "The Hunt for Red October", I had forgotten they did an interesting choice of having Connery and a couple other actors actually speak in Russian (Connery's Scrussian accent is...interesting) and at a certain point they switch over to English. 
    Yeah that used to be the old trick. A movie would start in a foreign language and then just switch to English, implying that inside the movie they were still speaking that language, but now the English is for the audience’s benefit. Which is at least something.
    kojiattwood
  • Hatorian said:
    I just watched a few foreign language films that were excellent and their RT scores are in the 90s. But the actors are just not on par with the brits and Americans. The movies were excellent and well acted. But I totally see and understand not just from a commercial perspective but from a qualitative perspective to go with British actors. There is a talent gap and unfortunately it will probably only get worse if productions continue to rely on staffing the actors from well known and proven areas. 
    You think there is a discrepancy in quality between all the other actors in the world and the ones that share your same native language?
  • bizmarkiefaderbizmarkiefader San Francisco
    Someone in Russia should make miniseries on the response to Katrina.


  • JaimieTJaimieT Atlanta, GA
    Hatorian said:
    I just watched a few foreign language films that were excellent and their RT scores are in the 90s. But the actors are just not on par with the brits and Americans. The movies were excellent and well acted. But I totally see and understand not just from a commercial perspective but from a qualitative perspective to go with British actors. There is a talent gap and unfortunately it will probably only get worse if productions continue to rely on staffing the actors from well known and proven areas. 
    You think there is a discrepancy in quality between all the other actors in the world and the ones that share your same native language?

    LOL
  • You think there is a discrepancy in quality between all the other actors in the world and the ones that share your same native language?
    I mean... probably? There is nothing special about being an English speaker or living in the West, but because of the economic status of America and Western Europe, we dump many, many resources into our entertainment industries compared to most non-English speaking countries. As a result, we also pull from a larger pool of talent.

    Sadly, there’s probably some kid right now in a 3rd world country who could make Daniel Day Lewis look like [insert notoriously poor actor], but he’ll never get the chance.

    There’s nothing prejudiced about this any more than if we pointed out that America has the best football players and (most of the best) basketball players (for the same reason).
    gguenot
  • You think there is a discrepancy in quality between all the other actors in the world and the ones that share your same native language?
    I mean... probably? There is nothing special about being an English speaker or living in the West, but because of the economic status of America and Western Europe, we dump many, many resources into our entertainment industries compared to most non-English speaking countries. As a result, we also pull from a larger pool of talent.

    Sadly, there’s probably some kid right now in a 3rd world country who could make Daniel Day Lewis look like [insert notoriously poor actor], but he’ll never get the chance.

    There’s nothing prejudiced about this any more than if we pointed out that America has the best football players and (most of the best) basketball players (for the same reason).
    There is that. But there’s also a likelihood that a the performance of a native English speaker is going to resonate better with a native English speaker. I would expect the same of actor and audience of other cultures. 

  • There is that. But there’s also a likelihood that a the performance of a native English speaker is going to resonate better with a native English speaker. I would expect the same of actor and audience of other cultures. 
    Granted. We are all trapped behind our own perspective on the world, which is in part determined by our own cultural context.

    That said, I don’t think the analogy to sports is inapt. The people from that (group of) island(s) just northeast of continental Europe have been working hard on performative storytelling probably more than any other people group for hundreds of years.

    It doesn’t seem like a stretch to imagine they’ve developed some (relative) expertise in that regard.
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