Appalling New Laws for Russian Film people

I got a letter from a friend from the Russian Documentary Guild with a link (see below) to an article that starts like this: ” Two amendments about distribution certificates and prohibition of offensive language in movies entered into force in Russian legislation on cinematography on the 1st of July, 2014. These amendments have fundamentally changed the system of production, film screening and distribution of Russian documentary film industry…”

And it continues like this, “So, from the 1st of July every right holder have to get the certificate even for a single screening of his film in public space wheter it’s a movie club, festival or any other form of sreening or rental. Getting distribution certificate becomes complicated because of the second amendment – prohibition of offensive language in movies. This law contains not only prohibition of some offensive words, but also scenes of smoking, appeals to overthrow the government, extremism, etc. The list of prohibited words doesn’t exist, an independent commission of experts will regard every project and make its own decision. What do the drafters of the law mean by extremism and appeals to overthrow the government isn’t clear either. Mechanism of the expertise is incomprehensible too: who will participate in this evaluation expertise and how this process will be held is explained nowhere…”

And it costs… “Getting a distribution certificate costs about 18-20 thousand rubles (from about $510-$570) for one film (this sum doesn’t include cost of the trip from other cities, and only right holders can get the certificate by themselves in Moscow). Directors who make films without support of the

Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation but using their own budget, small movie companies and educational institutions won’t be able to afford this sum of money. However, even if some right holders have money, they have no guarantee that they get the distribution certificate quickly. Firstly, the film may not pass the expertise, and secondly, the new law anyway suspends the life of the movie at least for 2-3 months, during which directors can manage to gather all the necessary documents and submit the relevant papers…”

”Various organizations, in particular, Documentary Film Guild and the X International Short and Animation Film Festival Open Cinema wrote open letters about the law of distribution certificates. Marina Razbezhkina, director of the School of documentary film and theater announced that the films of her students and graduates, created without the financial support of the state, wouldn’t participate in festivals and film screenings where the certificates are needed. This law, according to Razbezhkina, introduces censorship in movie industry that violates freedom of speech and expression (Article 29, the Constitution of the Russian Federation).”

Wahnsinn… in 2015, censorship for sure. The Documentary Guild that is doing important work to improve the conditions for documentarians in the big country, deserves support from international organisations and festivals even if – quite a sarchasttic tone – the Guild writes: “…dear foreign colleagues, don’t worry! This law won’t concern you! You can continue to show your movies at international film festivals in Russia with offensive language and without distribution certificates! Come to Russia, we are waiting for you!

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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