The Cinema cultural boycott of Russia

The call for a cultural boycott of Russia has extended beyond cinema, with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes the wildly-popular Eurovision Song Contest, announcing on Feb. 24 that it was banning Russian acts from competing in this year’s event. London’s Royal Opera House has canceled the summer season of Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet and the Metropolitan Opera in New York and the Berlin State Opera have ended their collaboration with Russian opera star Anna Netrebko, after the singer refused to “repudiate her public support for Vladimir Putin.”

The group of Ukrainian filmmakers argues anything less than a full ban on Russian works is akin to tacit support of Putin’s military aggression. “The fact is that at all times Russia has used cultural and artistic achievements as a cover for its aggressive actions,” writes director Valentyn Vasyanovych, “it is necessary to lower the iron cultural curtain around Russia. Stop any cultural collaborations with representatives of a terrorist country that threatens to destroy the whole world.”
Until Russia “publicly acknowledges the fallacy of its actions in Ukraine or is convicted under all the laws of international law,” writes Alina Gorlova, “I consider inadmissible any representation and support of Russian cinema.” Drawing a link between the current war and the reaction to German artists and supporters of the Nazi regime, Roman Bondarchuk writes that state-backed culture in Russia “prepared the ideological basis for this war…After the war, when Ukraine’s existence will not be threatened by tanks and missiles, it will be possible to return to it, study it, research it and structure it. Just like nowadays, we study [Leni] Riefenstahl’s films or [Richard] Wagner’s works.”

The only justifiable support of Russian culture at the moment, Bondarchuk argues, would be a broadcast of Swan Lake, the music that “traditionally makes a change of government in Russia.” In fact, that’s exactly what the staff at Popular Russian television channel Dozhd did last Thursday, when the channel suspended its operations amid pressure linked to its Putin-critically coverage of the Ukraine war.

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