The director of controversial Russian film Matilda has called on the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB to ensure the safety of cinema spectators, hours after his studio was attacked by arsonists.
Alexei Uchitel’s studio in St Petersburg was attacked in the early hours of Thursday morning with Molotov cocktails resulting in a minor fire which caused damage to a part of the building that housed a separate film studio, Lendok.
Uchitel’s upcoming film Matilda is set to be released in October, and has been the subject of considerable controversy over the past few months. Both representatives of the Orthodox Church and government officials have called for the film to be banned over its alleged besmirching of Tsar Nicholas II, as it retells the story of his illicit affair with ballerina Matilda Kschessinka before his coronation.
Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov), known widely as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s personal confessor, labelled the movie “slander”, while earlier this year Russian State Duma deputy Natalia Poklonskaya collected 100,000 messages and signatures from citizens and officials against the film.
Earlier this month, Russia’s Ministry of Culture approved the release of the film, maintaining that it fully complies with the law.
In response to the attack, Alexei Telnov, the director of Lendok studio stated: “I cannot think of any motivation other than it being a reaction to Alexei Uchitel making the film Matilda,” according to TASS news agency.
“Tonight they set fire to the Lendok film studio, and tomorrow they will burn cinemas where ordinary viewers may suffer,” Uchitel wrote in his letter, urging the internal affairs ministry and FSB for protection once the film airs.
After repeated unanswered calls to the authorities to take action in repose to intimidation from protestors, Uchitel ends his letter with an emphatic crescendo, stating: “Stop the aggression! Let people see the movie!”