First the election, now the Oscars race? Two filmmakers allege that Russian agents are working overtime to thwart the success of their documentaries which are nominated for Best Documentary Feature: Icarus, about Russia’s state-sponsored doping operation, and Last Men in Aleppo, about the Syrian volunteer group the White Helmets. As Last Men in Aleppo wins awards and grapples with the U.S. travel ban, its director Feras Fayyad has been accused of making an “Al-Qaeda promotional vehicle” by Russian media, the director told the New York Times. “They just keep attacking you, accusing you,” Fayyad said. “And the people who work with me, my team, I don’t want them accused or attacked because of me.” Russian news outlets have also launched attacks against the White Helmets themselves, falsely suggesting the group is in cahoots with ISIS or Al Qaeda.
The team behind Icarus alleges the same Russian meddling. The documentary’s subject, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, is in the witness protection program following his whistle-blowing on Russian state-sponsored doping during the Olympics. Still, a Russian Olympic official said Rodchenkov should be shot for defecting, and the doctor is the now subject of a defamation lawsuit brought by Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail D. Prokhorov.