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Monday, 24 February 2014

Repression & the Russian Film World.

The film director Pavel Bardin arrested at a demonstration outside the court of where the verdict of the Bolotnaya Case was being read out.

It seems rather difficult to talk or even think about Russian cinema in the past few days. Writing becomes a hopeless task before the spectacle of the tsuanmi of the present moment. Thoughts have been on the events in Ukraine and now the verdict of the Bolotnaya Case, but thoughts don't seem able to turn into the clarity of language. Here in Russia, adding up all the arrests at the court and in further actions in downtown Moscow and St Petersburg maybe we'll arrive at the figure of about a thousand. I was standing on Friday outside the courthouse for the Bolotnaya verdict and the spectacle of arrests- most of the time completely random in which stormtroopers often broke into some part of the rather amorphous crowd picking someone standing at the back playing no active part- was one clearly designed to strike a certain fear in people.

Russia with this verdict (and with the Ukrainian events) seems to be on the brink once again. How this will effect culture as a whole (and cinema in particular) is unclear. Yet the photo above of the well-known film director, Pavel Bardin, being dragged away by two riot police seems to point to the fact that culture and politics are likely to be inextricably linked in the near future in Russia. The policing of film and theatre are no longer a mere metaphor. Along with respected mathematicians, well-known journalists and artists, history professors, the Russian автозак (police wagon) now is a temporary home for film directors too.

As John Freedman has pointed out in a post about recent events in Russia, not all representatives of culture are necessarily on the same side and the film world has never lacked its yes men. Yet it seems that the conclusion at the end of Freemdan's article is looking increasingly accurate in a foreboding way:

We find ourselves once again standing with Nikolai Gogol who, in his great novel 'Dead Souls' asked "Rus, whither do you race?"
I hesitate to do it, but as the biographer of Nikolai Erdman, I cannot fail to add the answer that Erdman provided to Gogol's question in his classic tragicomedy 'The Suicide'
In that play the revolutionary writer Viktor Viktorovich quotes Gogol's famous query and recieves an immediate response from a mailman named Yegor: "Straight to the police, mark my word." Yegor snaps.

The police have already shown little compunction in who it arrests (and given the completely random methods it uses ) who knows how many more figures like Bardin will end up in the avtozak). It seems that as one of those on trial for Bolotnaya put it, Russia is looking increasingly similar to the Gianni Rodari story Cipollino (here adapted in animated version):

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