Censor director Peter Kerekes and screenwriter and producer Ivan Ostrochovský spent six years visiting and filming in a Ukrainian women’s prison. They were most attracted by two real stories. Irina works as a manager in a women’s prison, which also houses mothers with children. She is a warden, confessor, friend, but also an official who carries out sentences.
She lives alone in a service apartment in the prison complex, eats a refrigerator at night and reads the love letters her prisoners receive. That’s her job too. On the other side of this microcosm are mothers – convicts with children in prison. Their lives are literally shattered, they have a variety of destinies and an uncertain future, and the only thing that keeps them afloat is their relationships and children, a few hours of happiness every day.
“Filming in prison was complicated, we could only be there for some time, you can’t do anything there, but again it brought a bit of authenticity,” Ostrochovský stated and admitted that the filmmakers were fascinated by the space of the “bass”. “We did very thorough research there, we really went there very often, we talked to the prisoners also in order to choose the types who will appear in the film, in many cases we wrote the script for their bodies,” added Kerekes.
Of the many stories of women in Colony 74, the director was inspired by the story of Lesja, who killed her husband out of jealousy and came to prison already pregnant. Her birth marks the beginning of a film that was originally supposed to be a documentary about censors in prison. The filmmakers went through about 12 prisons in Ukraine, the last being the women’s correctional institute in Odessa, which was accompanied by Irina Kirjazeva.
“We saw how she communicates with convicts, how she tells us stories from prison, she also introduced us to the part where mothers with children are, and we knew we had a character and we would build a film around it.” Kerekes described the genesis of his first feature film. “I worked in prison for many years, my job was to ensure the safety of women in prison.” revealed the main representative of Cenzorka. What was unusual about the filming was that Kirjazeva only had to repeat the same words several times: “Until the director liked it.”
Executive producer Albert Malinovský noted that Irina not only portrayed the main character of the film, but also its main production: “She equipped everything we needed, different things and approaches to places we wouldn’t normally get. She deserves thanks and great admiration that she was able to put it all together.” The censor goes to the cinemas with the film The Once Upon a Sea … A short animated documentary by Joanna Kozuch talks about the consequences of human decisions and actions in the Aral Sea.