'Child 44' Ban Rolls Out Across Former Soviet States

Lionsgate/Screenshot
'Child 44'

Belarus, Kazakhstan and Krygyztan follow Russia's lead, while Georgia postpones the release of Lionsgate's Moscow-set period thriller until October.

Four more former Soviet states have pulled Daniel Espinosa's Stalin-era thriller Child 44 from cinemas after Russia banned the movie, saying it "distorted history."

Russia's western neighbor Belarus and Central Asian republics Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have forbidden distribution of film while Georgia has postponed its release until October.

The decision to ban the film in Kyrgyzstan was made by the country's Ministry of Culture, the Moscow Times reported.

The postponement of the the film in Georgia was made by Ukrainian distributors who license the release in Georgia, a spokeswoman for cinemas in Tbilisi, the capital, said.

"We bought the rights from a Ukrainian company, which contacted us and told us to postpone the premiere to October. We were surprised to hear this the day before it was due to be released," Irina Kilasonidze told Russian news agency Interfax.

Western media reports of Russia's initial ban, announced on Wednesday by Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, have dubbed it censorship. The film had been due to roll out across Russia and CIS territories on Thursday.

The decision to release a film about a child serial killer set in Moscow in 1953 just three weeks before Russia and its neighbors mark the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany had been seen by many in the country as in poor taste.

Medinsky said the film portrays the Soviet people as "physically and morally defective subhumans" and the country as a place where "starving children eat their weaker classmates."

Produced by Ridley Scott and Lionsgate and starring Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, Vincent Cassel and Jason Clarke, the film is based on a novel by Tom Rob Smith that is believed to have been inspired by the true story of a Russian serial killer in the 1970s and '80s, Andrei Chikatilo. But scriptwriters decided to move the action to Stalin's Russia, suggesting that a probe by a disgraced member of the Soviet military police is blocked because Soviet ideology does not admit its citizens are capable of such monstrous criminal behavior.

With a key wartime commemoration coming up that for many evokes pride in Stalin's role and the achievements of the Soviet Union, likely the last major anniversary in which Russia's remaining 144,000 surviving frontline war veterans participate, Medinsky is believed to be taking no chances, even though the film's plot is entirely fictional.

Western critics have panned the film and Russian reviewers suggested that, had it been released, audiences would have given it the thumbs-down.

"I would quietly released this picture, it would in any case receive mostly negative reactions and emotions and then it would be all forgotten," said Russian critic Yuri Gladilschikov.

An opinion poll published earlier this month by respected Russian pollsters VTSIOM, suggests that while nearly half of all Russians believe that realistic, socially important films should be made, as many as 23 percent across the country (rising to 34 percent in Moscow and St. Petersburg) believe films critical of Russian history and society should not receive public funding.

The poll suggests that Medinsky's action will find favor with many Russians, particularly at a time when the wartime sacrifice of the country, which saw 27 million die in the struggle against fascism, is about to be marked.

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