In a surprising admission, Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky announced this week that the reason behind the ministry’s decision to refuse state funding to Artdocfest — Russia’s largest international documentary film festival — was a result of festival director Vitaly Mansky’s political opinions.
“Not a single project of Mansky’s, including Artdocfest, will get a single penny so long as I am minister of culture,” said Medinsky on Wednesday.
According to the minister, Mansky’s “anti-state” opinions render him unwelcome from asking for financial support from the culture ministry’s budget. “[Mansky] has uttered so many anti-state things that we’ll just let him do the festival at his own expense, we don’t mind. We are not prohibiting the festival from going ahead,” said Medinsky.
In March, Mansky added his name to an open letter from more than 100 members of the Russian film union Kino Soyuz, which took a stand against Russia’s military presence in Crimea. Responding to an open letter from their Ukrainian counterparts, the statement said: “We share your contempt as to the lies and distorted coverage of the momentous events in Ukraine and all the more so we are against Russian military intervention in Ukraine.” Other eminent culture figures who attached their name to letter include directors Boris Khlebnikov and Alexei Popogrebsky and actress Yuliya Aug.
Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, a number of Russian cultural figures who have publicly denounced Moscow’s role in the conflict have found themselves the victims of thinly veiled attempts to disrupt their careers. While unexpected event cancellations and funding cuts have largely been attributed to logistical difficulties by state bodies, no Russian official until now has explicitly admitted that an individual’s political leanings determines eligibility for state sponsorship.
In September, Mansky reported that Artdocfest — sponsored by the Ministry of Culture every year since its inception — had its sponsorship request rejected due to unknown circumstances. “We requested something like a million roubles, but this money hasn’t been found for us,” said Mansky. “We were not even given an explanation for the reason for this year’s refusal. They just said that there is no money.”