Russia pulls Hollywood film set in Stalin era for ‘distorting history’

Russia’s culture ministry said that the film’s distributors in Russia had agreed to withdraw a request for a distribution licence

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Russia on Wednesday cancelled the release of a Hollywood thriller set in the Stalin era on grounds it distorts history and would be shown as the country celebrates the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in WWII.

The film, “Child 44”, starring Tom Hardy, Vincent Cassel and Gary Oldman, tells the story of a serial killer who targets children in the Stalin era. It is based on a fantasy novel by English writer Tom Rob Smith and was due to go on wide release in Russia on Thursday.

Russia’s culture ministry said in a statement sent to AFP that the film’s distributors in Russia, Central Partnership, had agreed to withdraw a request for a distribution licence after ministry officials viewed the film.

The culture ministry said that a screening for ministry officials and press on Tuesday had raised concerns over the film’s content, “primarily about the distortion of historical facts and the idiosyncratic treatment of events before, during and after” World War II.

It also questioned the film’s depiction of Soviet citizens during that era.

“After this viewing, the opinions of the distributors and representatives of the culture ministry coincided: the distribution of such films ahead of the 70th anniversary of the victory is unacceptable,” the ministry said.

The film is set in 1952, a year before Stalin’s death, and features a maverick investigator seeking a serial killer, while hindered by official attitudes that such murders are not possible in the Soviet Union.

“You realise murder is strictly a capitalist disease,” French star Cassel hisses in a thick Russian accent in the film’s English-language trailer.

The decision to pull the film came after the culture ministry had on Tuesday given the film a distribution licence with an 18+ certificate.

On Tuesday, Kultura state-funded arts newspaper, whose editor is a member of President Vladimir Putin’s arts council, published a review of the film on its website titled “44 shades of vileness.”

“Daniel Espinosa’s film is made up of lies and spitting at Russia and Russians,” it wrote.

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