Russian filmmakers stand up against Soviet-style censorship

Russian filmmakers stand up against Soviet-style censorship
Scene from Matilda (2017, dir. Alexey Uchitel)

7 February 2017

Members of an independent Russian filmmakers’ union have published an open letter decrying the censorship of culture in Russia, in particular criticising the role of Orthodox activists in calls to ban Alexey Uchitel’s upcoming historical drama film Matilda.

Matilda centres on ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska and her relationship with Nicholas II. The film is not set for release until October 2017, but has already been the subject of considerable controversy and criticism both from representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and government officials. Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov), often referred to as the personal confessor of Russian President Vladimir Putin, dubbed the movie “slander” in its portrayal of Nicholas II, while State Deputy Natalia Poklonskaya asked the Prosecutor General to audit the film twice. Last month, activists from the Christian State — Holy Rus organisation sent threatening letters to cinemas planning to show the film. They warned that, where Matilda is shown “cinemas will burn, people may even be hurt”.

The letter from members of the Union of Cinematographers and Cinematographic Professional Organisations and Associations of Russia states that this is by no means an isolated incident. The power of Orthodox activists was evident, the members argue, in the firing of a Siberian theatre director in 2015 over the staging of a Wagner opera, and in the attacks on Vadim Sidur’s non-conformist sculptures at Moscow’s Manege exhibition space, also in 2015.

The filmmakers stress that they are “well aware” of what censorship is, and would not wish modern Russia to return to its Soviet past.

“We don’t want our culture to become subject to new censorship, whichever influential forces initiate it. We want a secular democracy where censorship is not only forbidden according to the constitution, but also in practice,” the letter states.

Source: Afisha (in Russian)