Oscar-nominated filmmaker attacks Kremlin censorship

 27 Oct 2016 - 13:52

Oscar-nominated filmmaker attacks Kremlin censorship
Writer/producer Alexander Rodnyansky (L) and director Andrey Zvyagintsev, winners of Best Foreign Language Film for 'Leviathan,' pose in the press room during the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards on January 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California (AFP Photo/Kevin Winter)


Moscow: Oscar-nominated director Andrei Zvyagintsev on Thursday launched a furious attack on the Kremlin over government censorship that he said is strangling the arts.

"It's completely obvious that censorship has fully entered into the cultural life of the country," Zyagintsev wrote on the website of the Kommersant daily.

Zvyagintsev, whose biting social drama "Leviathan" was nominated for an Oscar last year, argued that the state effectively censors the arts by limiting funding for only projects it approves.

The director said he was responding to comments by President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov that while censorship is unacceptable, the commissioning of arts projects made with state funds does not fall under this category.

"We say it's censorship, they say it's a state commission," he wrote, saying that cinema and other arts are dependent on state funding to survive.

Zvyagintsev has become one of Russia's best known directors abroad since he won the Golden Lion at the Venice film festival with his debut film "The Return" in 2003. 

"Leviathan" was made with funding from the Russian culture ministry, but Minister Vladimir Medinsky said he disliked it. For Russian screenings, all the swear words had to be beeped out under a new law.

Russia's constitution bans censorship but the culture ministry has returned to a Soviet-style system where it commissions films on specific topics such as World War II or sport and says it funds projects that are in the "national interests." 

State officials "give the author a topic and control its 'correct' embodiment in art," Zvyagintsev said, calling the result "a talentless miserable lie."

State commissions also take decisions on whether to fund specific projects and have rejected some that touch on risky or political topics.

Zvyagintsev argued that the government is distributing the public's money and not its personal funds and "it's not the artist obliged to the state, but the state that owes a debt to the artist."

Censorship has hit the headlines recently with renowned Moscow theatre director Konstantin Raikin delivering a widely discussed speech Monday describing ignorant arts officials dictating to him and warning of the risk of a return to "Stalin's times." 

Recently across Russia, groups of conservative activists citing patriotic and Orthodox Christian views have used threats and vandalism to halt theatrical stagings and exhibitions, with authorities seemingly standing by.

Zvyagintsev condemned such attacks as "monstrous", suggesting that the authorities condone such radical activists because they share the same agenda.