Russian cinemas cancel screenings of controversial Matilda after attacks

13 September 2017

Russia’s largest cinema chain has cancelled its screenings of Alexei Uchitel’s controversial upcoming historical drama film Matilda, citing fears over the safety of cinemagoers.

Matilda, which centres on ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska and her relationship with Nicholas II and features erotic scenes, has been the subject of considerable controversy and criticism 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 earlier this year Russian State Duma deputy Natalia Poklonskaya collected 100,000 messages and signatures from citizens and officials against the film. In recent weeks, activists have carried out a number of attacks against the film’s future release.

According to a report by BBC News, the Cinema Park and Formula Kino group stated that it had to “protect cinemagoers from risks”, taking into consideration recent attacks by opponents of Matilda and threats made towards cinemas that plan to screen the film.

On Monday morning, two cars were torched close to the central Moscow office of a lawyer working for Matilda’s director, Alexei Uchitel, while the filmmaker’s studio was attacked by arsonists at the end of August. Last week, an activist set fire to a Yekaterinburg cinema in an act of protest against the film. The incident in Yekaterinburg seems to fulfill statements by activists from the Christian State — Holy Rus organisation earlier this year that, where Matilda is shown, “cinemas will burn, people may even be hurt”.

A spokeswoman for the Cinema Park and Formula Kino group, Alexandra Artamonova, told BBC Russian that the cancellation “is a necessary measure — we have many cinemas in 28 Russian cities and we’re responsible for them”.

In spite of calls to ban the film by religious conservatives, Russia’s Ministry of Culture cleared Matilda for release last month, although individual regional authorities will be able to ban it on their territory.

The premiere of Matilda is scheduled for 23 October 2017 at St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, with general release in Russia due on 26 October.

Source: BBC News