Moscow Theaters Pull Film About Opposition Oligarch

"Khodorkovsky" by Cyril Tuschi will open at only one theater.

MOSCOW – All but one of the Moscow theaters scheduled to show the documentary about jailed oligarch and Kremlin opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky have pulled the picture, which the distributor views as an act of self-censorship.

Khodorkovsky by German director Cyril Tuschi was supposed to open on seven screens on Dec. 1, but most of the theaters cancelled their plans to screen the film.

“In Moscow, it will open only at Eldar,” Olga Papernaya, art director at the distribution company, Kinoklub, told The Hollywood Reporter. “But we are looking for alternative venues, and have already found one, FotoLoft gallery, where it will open on Dec. 1.”

Most theaters said they never had Khodorkovsky on their schedules.

“We didn’t plan to screen the film,” a spokesman for the theater chain Karo told The Hollywood Reporter. “No one contacted us about it.”

“Everyone is trying to find politics here, but there is none,” he went on to say. “The controversy around the film will increase potential audiences’ interest in it, this is a good publicity move.”

But Papernaya stressed that Kinoklub had preliminary agreements with the theaters, which they failed to observe. “Moskino got a phone call from the city’s culture department, which informally suggested the screening should be cancelled,” she said. “I think, the reason is primarily self-censorship. People are scared to lose their jobs.”

According to Papernaya, the film is scheduled to open in several other larger Russian cities between early December and mid-January.

The documentary shows Khodorkovsky as the richest Russian who challenged then Russian President and currently Prime Minister Vladimir Putin back in 2003 and was soon jailed, while his oil company, YUKOS, ceased to exist.

Khodorkovsky was found guilty of fraud and later of embezzlement and money laundering in two trials that some international organizations, including Amnesty International, said were politically motivated. He is currently serving a 13-year sentence and is to remain jailed until 2016.