Oscar-nominated 'Leviathan' ruffles feathers in Russia

Fri Jan 16, 2015 8:58am EST
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By Gabriela Baczynska

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian director Andrei Zvyagintsev's Oscar-nominated film "Leviathan" has won acclaim around the world but is dividing opinion back at home, where some see it as a critique of President Vladimir Putin and Russia itself.

The film, a no-holds-barred look at how a corrupt local mayor crushes all who oppose him to arrive at his goals at all cost, has even prompted a Russian Orthodox activist to call for it not be screened in Russia.

A portrait of Putin that is often seen looking down on the mayor creates what many see as a link with the Kremlin and the Russian leader's governing style.

Putin critics say the story mirrors life in Russia in the 15 years since the former KGB spy first rose to power, with corrupt state officials enriching themselves and enjoying impunity.

Russia's Culture Ministry co-financed the film but now says it blackens Russia's image just to win international acclaim.

"Films focused not only on criticism of current authorities but openly spitting on them ..., filled with a sense of despair and hopelessness over our existence, should not be financed with taxpayers' money," Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said in a newspaper interview this week when asked whether the ministry would support similar films in the future.

Though "Leviathan" premiered in mid-2014, cinemas in Russia will start screening it only in February, with foul language muted to comply with Russian profanity laws.

The film, largely shot in the village of Teriberka on the Barents Sea in Russia's far north, has already won a dozen awards abroad, including a Golden Globe.   Continued...

Producer Alexander Rodnyansky (L) and director Andrey Zvyagintsev pose backstage with their award for Best Foreign Language Film for their film "Leviathan" at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 11, 2015.   REUTERS/Mike Blake