Government Restriction Could Put Russian Indie Film Festivals Out of Business

The Russian government’s new strict rules on film screenings may force many independent film festival organizers in Russia out of business, Polit reports following the adoption of a new bill in the State Duma this week.

Under previous regulations, cinemas with the commercial rights to screen a film were exempt from the need to obtain an additional screening license from the Culture Ministry to showcase a movie at a festival. Under the new legislation, an exemption will only be given to festivals that satisfy condition including having a professional jury, screening films that are no more than one year old and being added to a government-approved list of qualifying festivals.

Festival organizers warn that the restrictions will push out smaller companies that don’t have the budget to pay for a jury, as well as those that specialize in screening older films.

Alexei Bazhin, the founder of Inoekino, a company that screens classic films in theaters around Russia, said his company would likely be forced to shut down because of the new legislation.

“The goal is to bring the entire film industry under maximum control, to make it manageable, dependable, and to push everyone who is an outsider and independent out of movie theaters entirely,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday.

“The introduction of the requirement to get approval for a festival can only be described as censorship,” he added.

Artpokaz, which screens art house films in Moscow and St. Petersburg, said in a statement on social media Thursday that the new requirement will force most successful film projects out of business.