CANNES — Russia has banned Hollywood thriller “Child 44,” which was produced by Ridley Scott and stars Tom Hardy, for allegedly “distorting historical facts” about the Soviet Union and presenting Russia as a place akin to Mordor.
Culture minister Vladimir Medinsky said the movie, which was due to be released on Friday, portrayed Soviet citizens as “physical and moral subhumans, a bloody mass of orcs and ghouls.” Medinsky said the film makes Russia out to be “not a country but Mordor.”
The release’s proximity to the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany on May 9 is a major factor in the decision. At least 27 million Soviet soldiers and civilians died in World War II, which is known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War.
“This is how our country — the same one that was victorious in the Great War, became a world leader and put the first man in space — is being portrayed,” Medinsky wrote in a statement.
He said Russians should not succumb to the West’s negative portrayal of Russian history. “It is time to finally form our own idea about ourselves as the heirs of a great, unique Russian civilization,” he wrote. “Without that, they will crush us.”
Medinsky made it clear that the film would not be allowed to be shown at any time. “Movies like this shouldn’t be released in our country’s cinemas, earning money from filmgoers, not on the 70th anniversary of the victory or at any time,” he stated.
“Child 44” is a paranoia-filled Cold War era thriller, which follows an investigation by a Soviet detective into a series of child murders. Variety‘s reviewer comments: “Part serial-killer thriller, part old-school anti-Soviet propaganda, ‘Child 44’ plays like a curious relic of an earlier Cold War mindset.” (Read the review here.)
Officially the film’s release was “withdrawn” by its distributor Central Partnership. It had made changes to the film but these had failed to satisfy the ministry.
Central Partnership chief executive Pavel Stepanov said in a statement: “We believe it is important that in the future there be more state control over films with significant social content.”
Central Partnership is, in effect, government controlled. It is owned by Gazprom-Media, which is part of the government-owned energy giant Gazprom. Gazprom-Media owns large swathes of the Russian media landscape, including TV networks NTV and TNT. Given that, any hope that Central Partnership will appeal against the decision to ban the film in any meaningful way is misplaced.
Central Partnership’s decision has led to fears that self-censorship will become more evident in Russia, with distributors avoiding films that could attract the government’s ire.
Alexander Rodnyansky, who produced Oscar nominee “Leviathan,” told the RBC news agency: “It’s clear that now, if (a film) is about history, it has to correspond to some system of coordinates.”
He added: “Now the self-censorship will begin: Many people will start being afraid to buy and distribute films here.”