UPDATED– Russia will not be sending an official Oscar candidate for the upcoming international feature film race, Variety has confirmed.
The news, which was reported by the news outlet AFP, was announced by the Russian film academy on Monday evening (Sept. 27). Several members of Russia’s Oscar committee, including its president Pavel Tchoukhraï, have resigned to protest the decision of the Russian film academy.
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Tchoukhraï issued a letter, unveiled by veteran journalist Larisa Malyukova, in which he blamed the Russian film academy for taking an “unilateral decision over the head of the committee” and said it was both “unfair and illegal.” Joel Chapron, an expert on the Russian film industry who is based in Paris, said Tchoukhraï had been followed by several other member of the committee who have now resigned, including Nikolaï Dostal, Sergey Selyanov, Vladimir Kott and Andrey Zvyagintsev, who is currently living in Paris.
The decision of the Russian film academy to boycott the Oscars reflects the rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia which has been at war with Ukraine since Feb. 24. Russia recently accused the U.S. administration of having a direct role in the war in Ukraine and has threatened to cut ties with the country.
Nikita Mikhalkov, a filmmaker who is a strong supporter of Russia president Vladimir Putin and chairs the Union of Cinematographers of Russia, said “it didn’t make sense” to select a film that will represent Russia in a country which, in reality, “currently denies its existence,” according to the local news outlet TASS. Mikhalkov, who resigned from the Oscar committee in August, has said he wanted to organize an equivalent to the Oscars for Europe and Asia.
Some members of Russia’s Oscar committee support the decision to forgo the Oscars, notably Karen Shakhnazarov, a Russian filmmaker, producer and screenwriter, who compared the U.S. with Nazi Germany. “Sending a film to the U.S. would be like sending a film to Germany during the Second World War to get the prize of the Third Reich,” Shakhnazarov told the local outlet Krasnaya Vesna.
Other members, such as Evgeniy Gindilis (“Mukha”), resigned from Russia’s Oscar committee months ago when the war started. “We can’t do business as usual when we’re at war. I left the committee on Feb. 27 after Russia invaded Ukraine,” said Gindilis. “While it’s wrong that film festivals or awards ceremony are boycotting Russian films, I don’t feel that it’s right to participate in promoting Russian films at this time,” added the helmer-producer, who is still living in Moscow.
Russia had been consistently submitting films for the Oscars for years. Underscoring the country’s vibrant film culture and industry, Russia was nominated in 2017 for Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless” (pictured above) which won the jury prize at Cannes; and was shortlisted twice since then, in 2019 with Kantemir Balagov’s “Beanpole” which had won a prize at Un Certain Regard at Cannes, and Andrei Konchalovsky’s “Dear Comrades,” winner of the Special Jury Prize at Venice.
A number of dissident directors have fled Russia since the beginning of the war, including Kirill Serebrennikov who delivered this year’s most prominent Russian film, “Tchaikovsky’s Wife,” which competed at the Cannes Film Festival. Serebrennikov, who left Russia after the end of a three-year travel ban, is currently living in Europe.
Variety reached out to the Academy for comment.
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