Moscow Premiere, a charitable film festival that hosted free screenings of controversial-in-Russia features, has been canceled.
Moscow’s culture committee pulled funding from the festival, claiming the “difficult economic situation” made it impossible to support. In a letter the festival organizers received Tuesday — just weeks before the festival’s slated Sept. 2 premiere — the government informed the festival that Moscow Premiere would be canceled as “the culture department of Moscow has to limit the use of budgetary resources in 2015.”
Moscow Premiere was entering its 13th year. Moviegoers can attend free screenings by getting vouchers published in Moskovsky Komsomolets, a daily newspaper.
In place of Moscow Premiere, the culture department shifted funding to a new “positive, youth-oriented” festival, the Youth Festival of Life Affirming Film, headed by Yevgeny Gerasimov, a city council member and member of United Russia, the Kremlin’s ruling party. The new festival will run Sept. 4–7.
For his part, film critic and head of Moscow Premiere Vyacheslav Shmyrov, will not participate in the Youth Festival. He told newspaper Noviye Izvestia that Moscow Premiere boasted a “very different program,” including Russia-88 and Winter’s Path, movies about Russian neo-Nazis and a “gay-themed debut feature that struggled to get distribution in Russia,” as The Hollywood Reporter described.
This cancellation falls right in line with the toxic climate for LGBT rights in Russia, coming just two years after the passage of a federal anti-LGBT law that banned “the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors.” Those found in violation of the law can be fined or, in some cases, imprisoned.
“’Moscow Premiere’ is primarily a social festival and a charity project that exists for those people, especially the older generation, who can not afford to go to the movies,” Shmyrov said. “It is mainly a social mission,”
Shmyrov said he hoped to salvage parts of the program but, with such short notice, he didn’t think it would be possible. He planned to have conversations with city council officials to see what could be done.
This story previously referred to Moscow Premiere as Russia’s “only LGBT film festival.” That is incorrect. The Side by Side International Film Festival is held in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The headline previously indicated that the government canceled Moscow Premiere; the government pulled funding, and Moscow Premiere was subsequently forced to cancel.