Russian film fund demands Greenaway omit homosexuality from Eisenstein biopic

Russian film fund demands Greenaway omit homosexuality from Eisenstein biopic

6 January 2015

British director Peter Greenaway’s new biopic about legendary Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein is now under threat following a warning from the Russian State Film Fund that they will refuse participation in the movie if references to Eisenstein’s homosexuality are not removed from the script.

Nicholas Borodachev, CEO of the film fund, told Izvestia: “I do not want to talk about it [homosexuality], but this topic in the script doesn’t suit us. The director, in turn, insists that this aspect of Eisenstein’s life is important for the picture. Of course, bear in mind that the script is written in the style of Peter Greenaway, but we would like to see the film a little differently. If something goes wrong, we will not participate in the project.”

The film, scheduled to begin shooting in 2015, has been entitled The Eisenstein Handshakes and will be jointly funded by Switzerland, France and the Russian State Film Fund. Recounting the life, work and travels of the iconic director, the film, according to Borodachev, should “first and foremost be suitable for our audience”. Greenaway's first film on the director, entitled Eisenstein in Guanajuato, is released this year and is in the main competition at the Berlinale International Film Festival set to take place in February next month.

Naum Kleiman, an eminent film critic and former director of Moscow’s Museum of Cinema, reiterated Borodachev’s point, telling Izvestia that “this issue [of homosexuality] has no relation to the facts. If you shoot a biopic about the great artist, you need to talk about his work and how Eisenstein's art influenced the history of cinema. What does his personal life have to do with anything here? I never take the side of censorship, but in this case we are talking about morality and a sense of tact.”

Information about Eisenstein’s homosexuality is based mainly on the accounts of his close friend, the actress and theatre critic Marie Seton, whose memoirs describe in detail the private life of the director in the 1920s.

This is not the first time that the issue of “non-traditional relations” of Russia’s popular cultural figures has caused trouble. Last year, Russia’s Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky denied that the composer Tchaikovsky was gay, suggesting he remained a bachelor simply because he couldn't find a suitable wife.