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Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Naum Kleiman: sacked as director of the Cinema Museum?

If today's media reports are to be believed one of the crassest and appalling decisions has been made with regard to Russian film in the past decade: the Ministry of Culture has informed Naum Kleiman that it will not be renewing his contract after August 12th, thereby effectively sacking him. The Cinema Museum story is one that has been running for some time now- ever since the Museum was unceremoniously kicked out of its premises in 2005 spelling the death-knell for hopes of a renaissance in Russian film and the emergence of a Russian New Wave given the splendid educational role that it was carrying out. The Cinema Museum has since limped on with roaming events in a variety of locations in Moscow, most recently occasional showings at the Mossovet cinema. If the Ministry of Culture now believes that it can completely do without the scholarly expertise and genius of Naum Kleiman (a figure who has, correctly in my mind, been compared with the legendary Henri Langlois of the French cinemateque) it will be a sign of the total cultural bankruptcy of this government and its Ministry of Culture. Such a decision to remove a cultural authority of such global stature as Naum Kleiman smacks of cultural illiteracy at its most suicidal. Marginalizing Naum Kleiman has echoes of some very sinister historical antecedents. The film community in Russia has reacted quickly with an open letter appearing immediately in the Seance film journal. One can only hope that the whole world cinema community will follow suit should the reports be confirmed. My rough and rather quick translation of the Seance open letter appears here:

Open letter to the Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky.

Respected Valdimir Rostislavovich!

We have heard from the mass media that from August 12th the permanent director and founder of the Museum of Cinema Naum Kleiman will be removed from his post. This decision, if it is to be final, would have the most serious and negative effects on the future of Russian cinema.

We fully understand that the Cinema Museum may be in need of a professional manager who could resolve day-today administrative and financial issues working alongside Naum Kleiman who was and is the leading artistic director. The Cinema Museum for many years now has been roaming the capital without its own premises. But if as a result of the arrival of this manager at the Museum, Naum Kleiman were to leave we would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

There are institutes which at different times are led by charismatic and talented or not very charismatic and not very talented people. These people can be changed because with a change of personnel at the top of the institution, the body is more important than the person who leads it. But Naum Kleiman created the Cinema Museum. He is not only its’ director, he is its parent, its founding father. And parents aren’t kicked out of their own home.

 Naum Kleiman is a figure of global significance and the Museum created by him is known far beyond Russian borders.  In 2005 when the Cinema Museum was deprived of its building, wise people warned that this would be a catastrophe not only for film education but above all for the film industry. 8-10 years ago the then rising young directors all announced that they were formed by the Cinema Museum.

Vladimir Rostislavovich we ask you personally to go out of your way so that Naum Kleiman as a leading scholar, a researcher who has helped to foster more than one generation of directors and finding himself at the height of his creative powers, should be assured 100% artistic independence from any manager in terms of programming, decisions regarding the fate of the Museum’s collection as well as in terms of the selection of his creative team. If he no longer remains among the acting directors of the Museum, if he leaves, then there would, in reality, be nothing left for a new director to manage, whoever that manager is.

We assure you that in our film community, and in the world film community, there is not a single serious cinematographer who would not relate to Naum Kleiman and his work other than with immense respect and boundless attachment.

It was signed by Liubov Arkus, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Georgii Daneliya, Sergei Selyanov, Alexander Sokurov, Sergei Solovivev and Konstantin Ernst.

Signatures are being added all the time. Here is the link in Russian: Open letter in support of Naum Kleiman


  1. How sad! I hope they pull it off. But political/business bureaucrats, however much they may talk about culture, are blockheads. This will probably need more than one letter.

  2. Another item from RIA Novosti has just come out saying that the Ministry of Culture is denying rumours that Kleiman will be sacked. But the previous statement came from Kleiman himself. I remember the stories surrounding the closure of the Cinema Museum. Evgenii Gersaimov (an actor and member of the Moscow Duma who was standing in for Mikhalkov that day) came out to tell a crowd who were picketing the meeting to decide the final status of the building in Krasnopresenskaya that the building had been saved and that the plans to close the Cinema Museum had been reprieved. That evening it was discovered he had simply lied to everyone present and that the decision had been taken to close the Musuem premises. So yes whatever the last minute hopes, there will be no end of lies that the bureaucrats are willing to tell. Don't know what can be done to reverse it if the decision has been taken, but events recently have confirmed the most pessimistic projections of events. Unfortunately. Hope I'm wrong.