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Russia Pulls Armando Iannucci’s ‘The Death of Stalin’ Days Before Its Theatrical Release

Local film and government leaders agreed with earlier outcries made by lawyers for the country's Culture Ministry.

“The Death of Stalin”

Nicola Dove

Armando Iannucci’s first post-“Veep” project won’t be released in Russia, the country where it’s set. Satirical “The Death of Stalin” was scheduled to open in Russian theaters tomorrow, but Screen Daily confirmed that the nation’s Ministry of Culture withdrew the film’s distribution certificate after government officials and local film figures attended a public January 22 screening in Moscow.

According to the Russian news agency Tass, Culture Ministry lawyers previously argued in an address that, “‘The Death of Stalin’ is aimed at inciting hatred and enmity, violating the dignity of the Russian (Soviet) people, promoting ethnic and social inferiority, which points to the movie’s extremist nature.” The Guardian reports that Yelena Drapeko, deputy head of the lower house of parliament’s culture committee, derided that she had “never seen anything so disgusting in my life.”

Based on a graphic novel by writer Fabien Nury and illustrator Thierry Robi, “The Death of Stalin” follows the battle to succeed the namesake dictator (Adrian Mcloughlin), who died in 1953. Said duties ultimately fell to Georgy Malenkov (Jeffery Tambor).

However, the Culture Ministry attorneys were particularly vexed by the performance of Jason Isaacs, cast in the role of former Russian Chief of General Staff and Minister of Defence [sic] Georgy Zhukov.

“Zhukov is portrayed as a militant comedian, while he was actually a prominent commander, a gifted strategist, and a marshal of the Soviet Union, who made a great contribution to our army’s victory in the Great Patriotic War, so his name is inextricably linked to the great Victory,” said the lawyers. “However, the movie shows no respect for our history and the memory of previous generations.”

Armando Iannucci, Jason Isaacs2018 Sundance Film Festival - "The Death of Stalin" Portrait Session, Park City, USA - 21 Jan 2018

Jason Isaacs and Armando Iannucci at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival


The film — described as offering a “complete dose of absurdity” in Eric Kohn’s A- review out of the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival — made its second festival stop this past Saturday at Sundance. Isaacs and co-star Andrea Riseborough (she plays Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana) then participated in a Q&A with director and co-writer Iannucci. Notably absent was Tambor, who has been contending with a pair of sexual harassment allegations since November.

Iannucci parted ways with “Veep” after its fourth season on HBO. IFC Films will open “The Death of Stalin” in the States on March 9. Watch the trailer below.

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