On 19 June 2009 Kostya Proletarsky, a drug user and HIV activist, died of tuberculosis meningitis at the Botkin Hospital in St. Petersburg, Russia. His death was the result of three years of mistreatment and torture at the prison facility No. 4 in Karelia, Russia. In Russia, where drug treatment is barely available, imprisonment becomes the main “solution” to the problem of drug addiction. But unfortunately, these institutions don’t cure. Instead, prisons kill.
The animated hand drawn documentary, featuring the original audio interview with Kostya and his mother, Irina, aims to commemorate Kostya Proletarsky and many others who have not survived prison systems around the world. The animated movie is produced by the Rights Reporter Foundation, narrated by Anya Sarang, directed by István Gábor Takács, and is hand drawn frame by frame by Lili Rontó.
Animation, background and character design, music
ISTVÁN GÁBOR TAKÁCS
Directing, screenplay, camera, editing, sound design and music
BENCE DÓCZI, TAMÁS BOHÁCS
Audio and music mastering
ANDRÁS KISS, PÉTER WAGNER-PUSKÁS
Pilot audio mastering
English language proofreading
End credit song guitar
Head of administration, rights reporter foundation
Interpreter and logistics
KATALIN SÓS, ALEXANDRA GURINOVA, FERENC HERCZEG, IGOR KUZMENKO, KARINA WORKU
ALEXEY KURMANAEVSKII, KATHERINA ZINGER
Saint petersburg location support
COMING SOON.... (After the festival screenings the film will be published online)
Lili Rontó is a Hungarian graphic artist. She earned her diploma at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in 2003. She produces graphic art for the Hungarian Institute for Educational Research and Development and the Academy Publishing House and other book publishers. She produces album covers, poster designs, animation clips, logos and many more. Her unique style of drawing and painting has been recognized at several exhibitions. She also produces the music with István Gábor Takács for the animated documentary. You can find a selection of her art here.
István Gábor Takács is a human rights activist, videographer and trainer. He ran the Video Advocacy Program of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union between 2007-2015. He worked as a needle exchange program counselor for 5 years. He is author of several articles on harm reduction and cameraman, editor, director and co-director of more than 700 online videos, among them longer documentaries, such as ”A Day in the Life: The World of Humans Who Use Drugs” (2016), “Without Rights” (2009), “Without a Chance” (2014), “Room in the 8th District” (2014) and “The Invisible” (2011). His works have been awarded first prize multiple times at the Kreatív Webvideo Award for best online documentary, he and his colleagues received the Hégető Honorka Award acknowledging online and television work for marginalised populations in 2013, and the International Rolleston Award in 2017 for achievements in international harm reduction advocacy. Since 2016 he works at the Rights Reporter Foundation, where besides producing films, he is training activists in video advocacy.
Péter Sárosi is the Executive Director of the Rights Reporter Foundation. He is a human rights activist and drug policy expert, the founder and editor of the Drugreporter website since 2004, the author of countless articles, co-author of books and director of films about harm reduction and drug policy reform. He was the Director of the Drug Policy Program at the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union between 2004 and 2015. He is experienced in working at international drug policy forums such as the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. He was twice elected to the Core Group of the EU Civil Society Forum on Drugs. He is the co-chair of the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network. He has been representing the Hungarian Harm Reduction Network at the government’s drug advisory body in Hungary since 2007. Peter also contributed to building a network of advocacy NGOs in Europe: the European Drug Policy Initiative. He provided technical assistance to several NGOs, and launched several campaigns on drug policy reform. As a member of the Drugreporter video advocacy team, he has produced videos about drug policy issues in a number of countries. These videos are now part of a unique online drug policy video library.
The Rights Reporter Foundation (RRF) is a non-profit organisation founded by Hungarian activists to advocate for the human rights of vulnerable populations. We use the power of video for community mobilisation and advocacy campaigning. Our vision is of a society where policies affecting vulnerable communities are evidence-informed and respect human rights, as well as developed and implemented with the meaningful involvement of these communities. The main focus of our work is on people who use drugs, sex workers and people who live with HIV, but we are glad to work with other stigmatised communities, such as LMBTQ people, ethnic minorities, migrants, refugees and homeless people. Our mission is to educate the public about the role of evidence in policy formulation, to provide a voice for vulnerable communities, and to improve the advocacy efforts of NGOs by providing technical assistance and training.
On 19 June 2009 at 6 o’clock in the evening, Kostya Proletarsky, a drug user and HIV activist died of tuberculosis meningitis at the Botkin Hospital of Infectious Diseases in St. Petersburg, Russia. His death was the result of three years of mistreatment at the prison facility No. 4 in Karelia, close to the Arctic Polar Circle in Russia.
In the prison camp, Kostya was denied the right to continue his HIV medication. Inmates, locked up at the so called Turbo-HIV ward (where HIV positive people who were infected with Tuberculosis were isolated) were regularly beaten and tortured. As punishment and to teach them ‘who’s the boss,’ guards often spilled 30 litres of bleach mixed with ammonia onto the floor of the closed cell, to suffocate people. For giving someone the address of the HIV clinic in St. Petersburg, Kostya was punished severely. Guards put a gas mask on his head, with 1.5 litres of ammonia attached to the bottom. These are just a few examples of the cruel and degrading treatment he and his fellow inmates had to suffer.
In Russia, where methadone substitution is banned, drug treatment is ineffective, and rehabilitation is barely available to poor people, imprisonment becomes the main “solution” to the problem of drug addiction. But unfortunately, prisons don’t cure. They cannot replace the quality drug treatment and social support that help people to deal with the problems behind their drug dependency. Instead, prisons kill.
Upon Kostya’s release in 2008, harm reduction and human rights expert Anya Sarang recorded an audio interview with Kostya in the hospital, in which he provided testimony of the unimaginable horrors occurring at the prison camp. Later in 2009 the Drugreporter team interviewed Irina Proletarsky, Kostya’s mother, in which she talked about the life of her son, and about their fight to beat Kostya’s addiction to heroin.
Since then our plan has been to produce an animated documentary, using the original audio interviews of Kostya and Irina, to raise awareness and to commemorate Kostya Proletarsky and many others who hadn’t survived the Russian prison system.
Now we have finished the 30 minute long film with Hungarian artist Lili Rontó. She has hand-drawn the animated film frame by frame.
- In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights decided that Russia violated the human rights of Kostya by not providing him HAART (HIV treatment) while he was imprisoned. The court ordered Russia to pay a compensation of 20000 EUR to Irina and another inmate's sister. You can read the court decision here.
- You can read the full interview with Kostya, recorded and transcribed by Anya Sarang in 2009.
LASZLO KRISTOF BALAZS
DR. TIBOR PÁL
TÍMEA FEKETE SZABÓ