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