Court sides with Nikita Mikhalkov on vote

MOSCOW — Supporters of the Oscar-winning Russian film director Nikita Mikhalkov have won the first round of a bitter court battle over the future of the country’s filmmakers union.

A Moscow city center court accepted arguments brought by a group of leading filmmakers from Mikhalkov’s camp in the divided union to rule illegal a union congress last December at which 83-year-old director Marlen Khutsiev was elected president of the org.

Mikhalkov, who ran the union for 11 years, was angered that his chosen candidate, actor Mikhail Porechenkov was defeated in the election and vowed to fight the decision.

Tuesday’s ruling by Moscow’s Presnensky district court — situated near the union’s multi-million-dollar headquarters a 20-minute drive from the Kremlin — opens the way for a second congress scheduled to open April 1.

Mikhalkov, whom opponents accuse of maneuvering to gain control of the union’s real estate, has been lobbying for the new congress, claiming that December’s meeting did not follow correct procedure making Khutsiev’s election illegitimate.

The director of Oscar-winning “Burnt by the Sun” who counts former Russian president Vladimir Putin among his friends and is also head of the Moscow Intl. Film Festival, is predicting that April’s congress will spell the end of the film union.

“I take no pleasure nor feel a sense of victory in the court’s decision,” Mikhalkov said in comments reported by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. “This business had taken up three months of my life, dealing with a monstrous lie. Everything said about the festival, the real estate, is untrue and I shall address those issues at the new congress in April. It is necessary to put the record straight.”

The film union — which dates back to Soviet times — has been ruptured by the row with members falling into pro and anti-Mikhalkov camps.

Viktor Matizen, chairman of Russia’s guild of film critics and leading spokesman for the anti-Mikhalkov camp, vowed to appeal the court decision.

He told RIA Novosti: “This is not the end of the matter. We shall challenge the decision because the law cannot stray too far from concepts of natural justice.

“The union has always had rules for its congresses and when Mikhalkov was [elected union head] under these rules, he accepted them. When the union did not act according to his wishes he created a scandal.”

Karen Shakhnazarov, a film director and head of Russia’s top film complex, the Mosfilm studios, expressed the hope that the new congress would promote unity and not lead to the collapse of the union.

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