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A controversial documentary about rampant corruption behind the scenes of Russia’s Winter Olympics that the Kremlin wanted silenced is screening at a heavily policed premiere in Moscow on Friday, followed by a repeat showing on Saturday.
The two screenings of Putin’s Games at Moscow’s 600-seater Khudozhestvenniy cinema have both sold out.
Russians living in Siberia will also have a chance Saturday evening to see the documentary after an independent television channel, Tomsk T2, struck a deal to show the film.
The film’s producer, Simone Baumann, told The Hollywood Reporter: “The head of police for Moscow city center interrogated cinema managers and ArtDoc Fest managing director Natalia Manskaya and said that due to the numbers of people attending there would be a heavy police presence. There are no legal ways to stop the screening; the only thing they could do is turn off the electricity.”
The festival had originally planned one screening, Baumann said, but such was the demand for tickets that a Moscow city listings magazine stepped in to sponsor a second show on Saturday afternoon.
Putin’s Games, which reveals the ugly truth behind the Sochi Winter Olympics — due to open in the sub-tropical Russian Black Sea resort in February — sparked a political and media storm in Russia after its world premiere on November 24 at Amsterdam’s IDFA documentary festival.
Revelations that the Kremlin had approached Baumann through intermediaries with offers of more nearly $1 million to buy all rights — effectively keeping the film from the public — highlighted the levels of official anxiety. Attempts to stop it from being shown at Moscow’s ArtDoc Fest put Baumann and the festival’s artistic director, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Vitaly Mansky, under unprecedented pressure.
Kremlin officials, minister of culture Vladimir Medinsky and Moscow city government figures all tried to have the film pulled from the program. Medinsky, who was shown the film, expressed his displeasure at a film that reveals the massive scale of government corruption behind the most expensive Olympic games ever — estimated to have cost $51 billion.
The films details the money the Kremlin spent on lobbying to secure the games for Sochi, the Olympic law that allows the seizure of private property and the reason why Russian president Vladimir Putin was so keen to host the games in a sub-tropical resort where snow and freezing temperatures cannot be guaranteed.
And it features a building contractor who was threatened that he would be “drowned in blood” if he did not pay kickbacks of up to 50 of multimillion-dollar contracts. The man, Valery Morozov, went public with his complaints about corruption by Kremlin officials before fleeing to the West with his wife and family.
Baumann insisted that since the film was supported by German Films, the international movie promotion body for Germany, a decision could only be made at foreign ministry level.
A compromise was struck under which the festival was forced to agree to screen a Russian-made, less critical documentary about the Winter Olympics as well.
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