'Leviathan' Director Says Russian Censorship Is "Rampant"

Andrey Zvyagintsev- Getty-H 2016
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A Kremlin spokesman criticized an article by the director, arguing that the government just has a say in what projects it funds.

Andrey Zvyagintsev, the Golden Globe-winning and Oscar-nominated Russian director of Leviathan, has written an op-ed in Russian daily Kommersant, in which he expressed concerns about state censorship in the world of arts and culture.

"It is absolutely obvious that censorship is rampant in the country's cultural life," he wrote in the guest commentary published Thursday. "Only a liar or an ignorant person could deny that. Banning a theater play, an exhibition or a text is exactly censorship."

According to Zvyagintsev, "authorities' involvement in professional matters of any specialist is often absurd, but involvement in the affairs of artists is one hundred times more absurd."

Zvyagintsev's piece comes at a time when Russian state officials are claiming the right to control content of movies, plays and other cultural output that the government is funding.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday criticized Zvyagintsev's article, defending the government's right to have a say in state-funded cultural projects. "Plainly speaking, if the government believes that smoking is harmful for people's health, it has the right to say that no one should smoke in a movie it is funding," Peskov was quoted as saying by news agency RIA Novosti.

He added: "Can you call it censorship? No."

When Leviathan was released in Russia last year, state officials accused it of portraying Russia in a negative light.