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We do not want our culture to be censored Open letter from filmmakers about the situation surrounding Matilda

11:29, 7 february 2017

Photo: Rock Films

Alexei Uchitel’s new film Matilda has not yet been released, but has already become the object of criticism by the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church and government officials. Bishop Tikhon Egoryevsky (Shevkunov) has called the motion picture depicting a romantic story from the life of Nicholas II slander and deputy Natalia Poklonskaya has twice asked the Prosecutor General to look into the film. Meduza has published an open letter signed by more than forty members of Russia’s cinematographic union about the situation around Matilda.

Alexei Uchitel’s film Matilda is scheduled for release only in October 2017 and has yet not been seen by anyone. But for several months now, the film has not been the target of a campaign that only short-sighted people would consider original advertising. For the second time, State Duma Deputy Natalya Poklonskaya intends to initiate have the prosecutor’s office look into the film on suspicion that it insults the feelings of believers. They are concerned that Emperor Nicholas II – who was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church – might not exactly appear as a “saint”: after all, the basis of film’s plots is a romance (though one that ended before the Emperor’s coronation and marriage) with ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya. What is more, it has become known that an organization called “Orthodox States – Holy Rus” has sent out letters to Russia’s movie theaters threatening any who dare to show Matilda. These letters threaten the movie theaters with arson and other violent actions.

The situation surrounding Matilda is amongst a number of other recent conflicts in the arts, including the prohibition of opera Tannhauser, a pogrom of Vadim Siddur’s exhibition, [and] discontent around the exhibition policies of the Hermitage. In all of these stories, you have so-called “Orthodox activists” acting through force, but the official Church does not respond to what is happening … nor does the Ministry of Culture.

We, filmmakers, especially the older generation, are well aware of what censorship is. Over the course of several decades of the Soviet period, [censorship] maimed the fates of artists and hindered the development of art. We do not want our culture to come under new censorship, regardless of the influence of the forces that initiate it. We want to live in a secular democracy where censorship is prohibited, not only [theoretically, as per] the Constitution, but in practice.

The letter was initiated by [Russia’s cinematographic union] Kinosoyuz, but signed by filmmakers regardless of membership, as this is a common threat to all.

The letter was signed by:

Andrei Proshkin, chairman KinoSoyuz

Alexander Gelman

Andrei Smirnov

Pavel Lungin

Vitaly Mansky

Andrei Plakhov

Boris Khlebnikov

Alexei Fedorchenko

Marina Razbezhkina

Andrei Shemyakin

Alexander Kott

Alexander Rastorguev

Pavel Kostomarov

Yuri Bogomolov

Alexander Zeldovich

Mikhail Lipskerov

Yelena Stishova

Alexander Golutva

Nina Zarkhi

Alexei Popogrebsky

Yulia Glezarova

Matvey Troshinkin

Sergey Grabov

Olga Galitskaya

Natalia Nusinova

Leonid Pavlyuchik

Vladimir Chutko

Anatoly Golubovskii

Yuri Feklistov

Viktoria Smirnova

Yekaterina Tatarskaya

Larisa Malyukova

Andreis Abols

Yekaterina Meliksetova

Angela Abzalova

Yelena Demidova

Viktor Matizen

Anna Kukes

Varvara Faer

Yekaterina Tarkhanova

Alexander Belobokov

Vladimir Dvinskiy

Alexander Kolbovsky

Yevgeny Gindilis

Yuri Shuysky

Mikhail Lemhin

Valery Otstavnykh

Nikolai Markozov

Slava Padalka

Alexei Khanyutin

Yuri Maryamov