Putin Critic Alexander Sokurov Shuts Russian Film Foundation

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Alexander Sokurov

The 'Faust' and 'Russian Ark' director said lack of funding and "unfriendliness and aggressiveness" from Russia's culture ministry promoted the move.

Renowned Russian film director Alexander Sokurov (Faust, Russian Ark), a prominant critic of President Vladimir Putin, announced that he is shutting down his independent film foundation, Primer Inotnatsii (Example of Intonation), amid pressure from Russia's culture ministry.

Sokurov set up the foundation in 2013 to support young Russian filmmakers. It has helped produce several shorts and feature-length films, including Kantemir Balagov's Tesnota (Closeness), which won the international critics award for Cannes' Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in 2017. 

But the foundation has suffered from a lack of funding and has come under fire from Russia's culture ministry. Last year, police in St. Petersburg launched a investigation into the foundation on charges Sokurov was using the organization to embezzle funds earmarked for film production. The probe found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Many viewed the investigation as an attack on Sokurov for his ongoing and vocal criticisms of Vladimir Putin. The director has repeatedly called for the release of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker imprisoned in Russia on terrorism charges and serving a 20-year sentence. As one of Russia's best known directors — Sukurov has had five films in competition in Cannes and won the Golden Lion in Venice in 2011 for Faust — he has long been a thorn in the side of the Kremlin.

Sokurov was quoted by news agency Interfax as saying, "unfriendliness and aggressiveness" from Russia's culture ministry, directed personally at him, made it impossible to continue with the foundation.