Oscars: Russia Shockingly Submits Russia-Bashing Hit 'Leviathan' for Foreign-Language Category

Cannes Leviathan Film Still - H 2014

Cannes Leviathan Film Still - H 2014

The controversial film won best screenplay at Cannes

Andrey Zvyagintsev's Leviathan, which won best screenplay at Cannes, raised eyebrows all over Hollywood when it was chosen as Russia's submission for the 2015 foreign-language Oscar on Sept. 28.

"We took this decision in favor of the Leviathan movie with a majority of votes," said director and Russian Oscar committee member Pavel Chukhrai

The choice is startling because the critically adored film is literally iconoclastic, with a scene of drunk cops shooting up Russian leaders' portraits with AK-47s, joking about whether it was time to shoot Russian president Vladimir Putin's portrait. In her reviewTHR critic Leslie Felperin called Leviathan "timely … especially given the escalating disgust worldwide over the way Putin regime conducts itself on the international stage and persecutes its own citizenry."

Read more Russian Venice Winner Pulls Film From Foreign-Language Oscar Consideration

The mockery is especially overt in one sly, laugh-raising scene where the host of a drunken shooting party offers up official portraits of former Soviet and Russian leaders for target practice, and the riflemen debate whether it’s time yet to take aim at those currently in power.

But the digs go much deeper than that. The film gradually evolves into a blatant indictment of the corruption that’s seeped into the very groundwater of government, the police force and the judiciary and a hypocritical and compromised Russian Orthodox Church, a j’accuse that will prove especially controversial in Russia.

Though the Russian Ministry of Culture funded the film, Zvyagintsev said the Ministry's chief told him "he didn't like it."

In an article headlined "Leviathan Swims Towards an Oscar," the Russian publication Gazeta.ru, which is widely read and fairly politically neutral, observed that "intrigue was added to the nomination process by Andrey Konchalovsky's withdrawal of his film, White Nights of a Postman, from consideration.… The process is held behind closed doors, and is run by directors who were either nominated for an Oscar or who have won it (such as [VladimirMenshov and Nikita Mikhalkov). The last best picture Oscar won in the post-USSR period was Mikhalkov's Burnt by the Sun."

Sony Pictures Classics releases the film stateside Dec. 31.

Sept. 28, 5:26 p.m. Updated with Gazeta quote.