Russian actor Alexey Serebryakov has stirred controversy for comments he made in a recent interview, saying Russia’s “national idea is brutal power, arrogance and rudeness.” The star of 2014 Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated film Leviathan, and the current BBC/AMC series McMafia, has received criticism from Russian officials over his statements. There have also been online calls for Serebryakov’s passport to be revoked.
Serebryakov has not backed away from his comments. Speaking with popular Russian online journalist Yuri Dud earlier this week, he said, “I think if you drive 30, 50 or 70 kilometers away from Moscow, you will see that the 90s there never ended. No matter how you look at it, today neither knowledge, enterprise, intelligence nor dignity are part of our national idea. Our national idea is brutal power, arrogance, and rudeness.”
Filmmaker and chief of the State Duma’s Culture Commission, Vladimir Bortko, was quoted by Vedemosti as saying, “If he does not want to love his homeland, then he should not have worked here and receive money.” Director and Mosfilm chief Karen Shakhnazarov called the statements “ugly and dishonest,” per RIA Novosti Crimea, suggesting they were made to gain favor in Canada where Serebryakov has resided since 2012.
For Leviathan producer Alexander Rodnyansky, the situation is reminiscent of a backlash against that film which was accused of portraying Russia in a negative light. There were similar rumblings surrounding this year’s Oscar nominee Loveless which Rodnyansky also produced and which is directed by Leviathan’s Andrey Zvyagintsev.
Rodnyansky tells me that even though he may not share Serebryakov’s opinion entirely, “the reaction of the Russian filmmakers and government people is a real nightmare to me and reminds me a lot of that time when we were releasing Leviathan and were facing the similar and repeated attacks from all sides. Moreover, we have experienced that again earlier this year with Loveless. Despite the fact that unfortunately all such attacks became the new norm in Russia, I’m convinced that the reaction is wrong: Every artist has a fundamental right to express openly and honestly his opinion.”
Zvyagintsev also weighed in to Deadline saying, “In my opinion, this is not because of what Serebryakov said, it’s all about people and their total disunity and total selfishness which I’m describing in Loveless. People respond so fervently to his words which were a part of a discussion and an honest expression of opinion, even if these words are spontaneous, people snatch them so rapidly out of this atmosphere of moral vacuum that we live in. You cannot offend a strong nation with a word. But you can offend it with poverty, lies, corruption and murders. ‘I love my country and want to be proud of it, but instead I have to be ashamed of it.’ This is what Alexey really said.”
Serebryakov was nominated for a European Film Award for Leviathan and won Best Actor from the Russian Guild of Film Critics. McMafia begins airing in the U.S. next week.