PRAGUE -- Lyubov Zemtsova, 29, a Belarusian filmmaker with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Current Time TV, died this morning in a hospital in Belarus’s capital city, Minsk.
She suffered critical injuries in a car crash on May 14, as her film crew was returning to Minsk after spending a day in the southeastern city of Homel filming volunteers who were helping medical workers at local hospitals respond to the coronavirus. Vladimir Mikhailovski, the team’s producer, and Maksim Gavrilenko, a sound engineer, were killed immediately.
RFE/RL President Jamie Fly said Zemtsova’s death “is a profound tragedy, for all of us at RFE/RL, for her family, and for Belarus.” He said, “Her work shows a deeply human connection to the people of Belarus. She managed to convey this beautifully on film. We will mourn the loss of her voice, her spirit, and the hope that she brought to her audiences and everyone who knew her.”
Doctors worked for eight days to save Zemtsova, who was in a coma with multiple internal injuries and bone fractures from the crash.
Zemtsova was the director of Unknown Belarus, a series created by Current Time to capture the ordinary and exceptional stories of the people and places of Belarus, a country often known only through stereotypes and clichés. A graduate of Warsaw’s Wajda School Doc Pro, she was an up-and-coming documentarian whose films were screened at several festivals, including the Astra Film Festival, ArtDocFest, and Watch Docs in Belarus.
In a recent tribute, Russian filmmaker Vitaly Mansky described Zemtsova as having a very “trusting, close relationship with her heroes.” He said, “She had a very careful position as an observer, not condescending to, but not inflating, her heroes. This let us, the audience, understand and feel the true sound of the time and the circumstances.”
This evening, Current Time will screen Zemtsova’s last completed film, A Place of Love, in her memory. Additional tributes and screenings of her works are being planned.
Current Time is a 24/7 Russian-language digital and TV network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. In addition to reporting uncensored news, it is the largest provider of independent, Russian-language films to its audiences. In the 12-month period ending in September 2019, Current Time videos were viewed more than 740 million times across digital platforms.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to more than 37 million people in 27 languages and 23 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed over 3.6 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in FY2019. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.