Moscow Premiere Film Festival Canceled After Government Pulls Funding

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Citing the "difficult economic situation," Moscow's culture committee told organizers money would be diverted to a new "positive, youth-oriented" festival headed by city council member Yevgeny Gerasimov, a member of the Kremlin's ruling party United Russia.

A leading Russian film festival has been canceled after its government funding was pulled to make way for a new, politically-approved movie showcase.

Moscow Premiere, which had been supported by the Moscow city council for the past 12 years was due to launch its 13th edition on Sept. 2, running a program of free screenings with tickets available via vouchers published in popular daily newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets.

News of the abrupt decision to pull funding entirely came in a letter to organizers Tuesday from Moscow's culture committee.

Citing the "difficult economic situation" the committee said no public funds would be spent on the festival. Instead money would be diverted to a new "positive, youth-oriented" festival headed by city council member Yevgeny Gerasimov, a member of the Kremlin's ruling party United Russia.

“Due the difficult economic conditions, the culture department of Moscow has to limit the use of budgetary resources in 2015 and cancel funding of several events, including Moscow Premiere,” the Moscow government said in a letter.

Moscow Premiere head, film critic Vyacheslav Shmyrov, said it was too late to rescue this year's edition of the festival and he had no plans join forces with the new politically-approved showcase.

"We cannot affiliate to the new festival — not least in terms of our self-esteem," he told newspaper Noviye Izvestia.

"Our festival was running 12 years and had a very different program, showing films such as Russia-88 and Winter's Path," he said, referring to two controversial movies, the first focusing on Russian neo-Nazis and the second a gay-themed debut feature that struggled to get distribution in Russia.

He stressed he would try to find a way to rescue elements of the program but had little hope of success at this late stage, although he would be talking to city council officials.

"'Moscow Premiere' is primarily a social festival and a charity project that exists for those people, especially the older generation, who can not afford to go to the movies. It is mainly a social mission," Shmyrov said.

The new 'Youth Festival of Life Affirming Film' is due to run September 4-7.

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