Kirill Serebrennikov’s film on Viktor Tsoi put on hold while under house arrest

Kirill Serebrennikov's film on Viktor Tsoi put on hold while under house arrest
Kirill Serebrennikov in Basmanny District Court, Moscow. Image: Raphaël Cavellec under a CC licence

25 August 2017

Shooting for the new film by arrested Russian theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov is to be on hold until further notice, the film's producer Ilya Stewart announced today. The production of Leto (Summer), a film currently being shot in St Petersburg about the iconic frontman of Soviet rock group Kino, Viktor Tsoi, “will be frozen immediately after the filming of technical scenes, and scenes that the actors and crew were able to rehearse together with the director, following his notes”, Stewart said in reports carried by Interfax.

Serebrennikov, who many consider to be one of Russia's best independent theatre directors, was arrested while filming earlier this week and placed under house arrest over alleged charges of embezzling 68m rubles ($1.1m) of state funds, a case widely decried as politically motivated and part of a wider crackdown on dissent in the arts.

In a heartfelt statement, the producer added: “Kirill Serebrennikov is our director and our close friend, his film cannot be completed without his participation. This is the position of the film crew and all our partners. We thank all our friends and colleagues for their incredible support over the past few days.”

On 23 August, a Moscow court placed him under house arrest under strict regulations until 19 October, when he is due to be back in court.

Following a raid on Serebrennikov’s Gogol Theatre in May, Russian authorities have arrested numerous figures connected to the theatre, including former directors Yuri Itin and Alexei Malabrodsky, as well as chief accountant Nina Maslyaeva, all accused of being involved in a plot to syphon off government funds allocated for a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

While officials leading the investigation claim that the case against Serebrennikov and the theatre is purely financial, many of Russia’s cultural elite ardently refute its authenticity, labelling it a ‘show trial’ ahead of 2018’s presidential election. The enormity of the public response and global news coverage of the story has fuelled some to equate its magnitude to the case of Mikhail Khordokovsky, as well as the Pussy Riot trials that began in 2012.

Russian director Kama Ginkas was almost lost for words when he was asked to comment on Serebrennikov’s arrest by Matters Like That magazine, uttering: “Oh, for F’s sake. For F’s sake. That’s my reaction. From there you can decipher numerous phrases in Lithuanian. What can I say? Are we really starting over? Are we really doing this again?”

Whilst Serebrennikov awaits his fate from the Russian courts, Ginkas’ chilling words evoke the unnerving cultural climate as Russia tightens its grip ahead of next year’s election.