UPDATE The European Film Academy is calling for the unconditional release of Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov and a guarantee of “his free movement and artistic expression.”
“There is every reason to believe that Kirill Serebrennikov’s arrest is politically motivated,” said the EFA’s board in a statement from Berlin.
The statement in full reads:
“The Board of the European Film Academy wishes to express its deepest concern about the Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov being placed under house arrest and calls for his immediate release.
Kirill Serebrennikov, one of the most prominent Russian theatre and film directors who was part of the EFA Selection 2013 with Betrayal (Izmena) and 2016 with The Student (Uchenik), for which Ilya Demutsky received the award European Composer 2016, and whose films were presented at festivals like Cannes, Venice and Locarno, was charged with fraud, detained in Moscow and placed under house arrest. This means that he is unable to continue his work as an artist, both at the Gogol Theatre in Moscow and to finish his film in St. Petersburg.
“There is every reason to believe that Kirill Serebrennikov’s arrest is politically motivated and the EFA Board respectfully calls upon the Russian authorities to have the detained released immediately and unconditionally and to guarantee his free movement and artistic expression.”
Previous, Wednesday A large crowd of what the BBC described as “theatergoers, actors and writers” chanted “Shame! Shame!” outside a Moscow courthouse today as Russian avant-garde theater director and filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov was placed under house arrest for what the government says is embezzlement and the cultural leader’s supporters insist is Putin-era intimidation and Kremlin authoritarianism.
Serebrennikov, the 47-year-old director of Moscow’s Gogol Center and a filmmaker whose The Student won a special prize at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival, has been accused by the Investigative Committee of Russia of scheming to embezzle the equivalent of more than $1 million in government funds meant for theatrical productions.
The director, who ran afoul of Moscow’s culture minister four years ago for supporting HBO’s 2013 documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, has denied the latest charges, and his many supporters insist the case is a thinly disguised effort by the Kremlin to intimidate and silence one of the country’s leading anti-authoritarian artistic voices.
Serebrennikov was detained Tuesday in St. Petersburg, reportedly while working on a film about the underground ’80s-era Soviet rock musician Viktor Tsoi. He then was taken to Moscow and charged with fraud.
Pussy Riot, the anti-Vladimir Putin punk band/art collective whose two-year prison sentence and government harassment were chronicled in the powerful Sundance Film Festival doc, tweeted its support of Serebrennikov yesterday, writing: “true. Kirill Serebrennikov, a theatre director who was arrested today is one of those who was not scared to publicly support pussy riot.”
Today, Pussy Riot tweeted that Serebrennikov had been placed under house arrest by “Putin’s butchers.”
The first tweet from Pussy Riot included a link to a 2013 letter to Serebrennikov from the Moscow’s Department of Culture. In the letter, Sergei Kapkov, Head of Department for the Minister of the Government of Moscow, writes, “I was surprised to hear from social media about the holding on December 29 in the building of the Gogol Theatre of the premiere showing of the film Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer with a subsequent discussion with the participation of the female stars of the film. …
“I am deeply convinced that a state cultural establishment should not associate itself with the names of persons who provoke such a questionable reaction and whose activities are based on the provocation of society,” Kapkov wrote. “I demand that you cancel the showing of the documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer and the discussion with the participation of the female stars of this film.”
Kapkov concluded his letter by noting, “Respected Kirill Semyenovich, you and I have talked a great deal about the fact that our mission is to ‘fix the world’, to make it better, and not to [unclear word] the public with scandalous [unclear word] that have no relation to culture in any sense of the word. Let’s keep to this principle and look after each other. With best wishes and hope for new premieres!”
After being forced to cancel the film’s premiere, Serebrennikov posted Kapkov’s letter on Facebook, reportedly adding, “Until recently, in all interviews, I would declare like a mantra: ‘There’s no censorship at the theatre, there’s no censorship at the theatre!’” The director added, “Cynical, pointless, and stupid.”
Serebrennikov is under house arrest until his trial starts on October 19. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
Here’s Pussy Riot’s tweet from yesterday, with a link to Kapkov’s letter.