Moscow Doc Festival Screenings Disrupted, Canceled Amid Ukraine Protests

Courtesy of Artdocfest
'Flight of a Bullet'

Artdocfest, Russia's biggest documentary festival, is facing its biggest controversy in years.

This year's edition of Russia's main documentary film festival Artdocfest has been marred by disruptions and cancelations of screenings over protests against films dealing with the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

On Sunday, activists of the movement SERB disrupted the screening of Beata Bubenets' film Polyot puly (Flight of a Bullet), focused on the military conflict between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels in East Ukraine, at Moscow's Oktyabr movie theater.

Several members of the organization, focused on protesting against current Ukrainian authorities and supporting pro-Russian forces, broke into the screening, dispersing a toxic gas, the festival's organizers said on the event's website. As a result, the screening was stopped and the viewers had to be evacuated. The attackers shouted that "the anti-Russia film won't be screened." The subsequent screening in the same room was also canceled because of the smell.

On Monday, SERB filed a complaint with the police, demanding that charges be brought against Artdocfest organizers for screening a film that "arouses national hatred."

The festival's organizers dismissed the accusations. "They are protesting against the film without even seeing it, which is absurd, as they don't understand that the film kindles nothing and basically does the opposite," Artdocfest president Vitaly Mansky said.

Meanwhile, the screening of another controversial festival film, Voina radi mira (War for the Sake of Peace), was originally moved from Oktyabr to the Czech Embassy but then canceled altogether following activists' threats.

The film is focused on Mustafa Dzhemilev, former leader of organization Majlis of the Crimean Tatar People, which protested against Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014.