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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Musei Kino: The Latest Deception

The increasingly depressing saga of the Cinema Museum seems set to continue. Late last December there seemed to be a breakthrough with an agreement regarding a building that would temporarily house the Museum. Indeed it was bureaucrats from the Ministry of Culture who insisted that Naum Kleiman and his team should agree to use this building telling Kleiman in person (according to his interview in "stop 'playing up', and accept this building as this is your last chance". It was then revealed on January 13th, the same Minister of Culture, has since decided that the building that they previously insisted on, is totally unsuitable. 

For those who have followed the story of the Cinema Museum it is clear that this pattern of deception and false hopes has been going on for a whole decade and looks like a  slow, tormenting wilfull destruction of cinematic memory. The recent round of news about the Cinema Museum started off with the 13th January Press Conference where the Culture Minister stated that not only was the Cinematic Scientific Research Institute (NIKFI)  unsuitable for housing the Cinema Museum temporarily for five years, but also the proposed permanent site proposed for the Cinema Museum was not acceptable to the Ministry of Culture. Naum Kleiman, as he stated in his interview in the government-owned 'Rossiskaya Gazeta", was not informed at all of the fact that Medinsky had decided against both projects. Medinsky stated at the press conference that the current film theatre Illuzion would be a good alternative. Yet this suggestion seems to be an absurd suggestion. Illuzion has only one screen and this would mean that the Museum's massive archive would still not have any suitable and permanent location. As Kleiman notes in this interview if this were a "shopping centre" a location would have been found. The situation with the huge and priceless archive is, of course, ever more tragic as this sorry saga continues. 

Should it prove that there was never any real political will to create this Museum, then it will become clear that the destruction of historical and cultural memory that the likes of Medinsky and his cabal ended up perpetrating, and the way in which they have gone about this, can only be justifiably be described as cultural vandalism of the most obscene order. Upon first hearing of the Ministry of Culture's new rejection, Naum Kleiman stated: "I am personally ashamed that we have such a Minister (of Culture). Now nothing else has been proposed so the question of discussing a Cinema Museum is off the agenda" and that the events have shown yet again that the people who believe that they run culture are complete incompetents. This will surely be Medinsky's epitaph in years to come- as one of the most shamefully destructive cultural bureaucrats that Russia has known- if the archive is laid to waste and no Museum is built. 

The latest facts- including Medinsky's arrogance in scuppering all agreements reached last December without even informing the most interested parties-  are yet another low and mean attempt at humiliating of one of most respected figures in the Russian film world. It feels watching this saga unfold that the Ministry of Culture is launching a war on culture, and a vicious, grotesque assault on cultural memory. Observing Russian cultural bureaucrats hacking away and destroying any hope of parading the very best of its prized cinematic heritage while at the same time promoting an ersatz national pride based on myths and xenophobic hysteria, with a parade of cheap blockbusters and nationalist costume dramas is a truly ugly and unbearable spectacle. To which there seems little end. One feels that even if Kleiman was slightly more upbeat in the Gazeta interview (and reported by Kinote) one has been here before.