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New Doc on Imprisoned Anti-Putin Oligarch Shut Out of Russian Theaters

New Doc on Imprisoned Anti-Putin Oligarch Shut Out of Russian Theaters

Next week, New York moviegoers will get a chance to see the acclaimed new documentary “Khodorkovsky” (opening at the Film Forum)–so named for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former Russia tycoon, who is now one of the world’s most famous political prisoners. But in Russia, where the movie is also set to premiere next week amid increased talk about Putin’s bid to reclaim the country’s presidency, the film is being suppressed, according to reports.

From the news site, WorldCrunch.com, which has translated a report from a Russian article in Kommersant, virtually no theaters in Russia are daring to screen it. In its op-ed pages, The New York Times has called Khodorkovsky “a powerful illustration of the contempt the country’s corrupt rulers have for the rule of law.”

“When we acquired the rights to the film in September 2011, we held discussions with many theaters and chains, and got several preliminary agreements for release,” Olga Papernaya, the art director of the company promoting the film in Russia, told the paper. “But when it came time to sign an agreement, we ran up against refusals. They are all oral refusals, so we can only guess what is really behind it.”

According to Papernaya, the first cinema chain to refuse to show the film was “Moskino,” a group owned by the city government of Moscow. Then another theater decided to show the documentary only once, on Dec. 2. Papernaya says that after these refusals, there was a “chain reaction,” with a total of 19 refusals. “It seems like there was a decision made at some point by theater managers and owners, and it seems like that was connected to calls from government officials,” she said.

The movie theaters of St. Petersburg also refused, as did those in Novosibirsk, where Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 and where the film’s director – Cyril Tuschi of Germany – had hoped to appear for the premier.

According to the article, five days before the documentary premiered in Berlin, the production company’s German office was broken into and a final version of the film was stolen.

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