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What Does War Have to Do With Cheese? In Russia, Everything

Jan 22, 2018 | 831 videos
Video by Ben Garfield

After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, both sides enacted stiff sanctions. Russia, for its part, banned the foreign import of cheese. That’s when Oleg Sirota found his calling. He quit his job in IT, sold his house and cars, took out a loan, and built himself the cheese factory of his dreams.

Is he a patriotic entrepreneur or an opportunist? Does he harbor dangerously extreme views, or is he just a lovable eccentric? Ben Garfield’s short documentary War and Cheese—the title a riff on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace—wants you to decide. The absurd, entertaining, and thought-provoking film profiles Sirota, a Russian nationalist who is profiting from the fractured relationship between the East and West.

“I felt the biggest challenge of making this film was to strike a balanced tone which paid respect to Sirota, allowing him to express his worldview in his own terms, while also reflecting the mixed emotions his story conjured up for me,” Garfield told The Atlantic. “I simultaneously found his story to be inspiring, concerning, a touch melancholy and—being from such a different culture in the UK—also rather absurd, even comical. While some of Sirota’s views are certainly extreme and differ greatly from my own, I didn’t want to single these out for attention, but rather present them alongside all of the other aspects of his story, and explore the complexity.”

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Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.