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War and Cheese

When Russia banned Western cheese imports in 2014, a Moscow man knew he had to make “Russian parmesan.’

When Russia banned imports of the Western cheeses he loved, Oleg Sirota knew immediately what he had to do. No question. He would become a cheesemaker.

In the short documentary War and Cheese, from director Ben Garfield, we meet the ebullient Sirota and tour his gleaming factory, surrounded by snow, as he tells the story of how a he quit his IT job, sold his apartment and cars, and started his new life making cheese. Sirota knew he couldn’t be without his favorite cheeses, and he didn’t want rank-and-file Russians to feel the loss either. There are no laws against making cheese in Russia. On August 7, 2015, one year after the ban was announced, he opened his factory.

The ban was part of the fallout of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, which resulted in stiff sanctions. Russia responded with its own sanctions, including against foreign cheese. Sirota, for his part, saw it as an opportunity. “I just want to help my country to overcome, to develop the skills necessaey to make cheese,” he says. “We’ll finally be on our way to becoming the country of our dreams.”