Russia to Ban Films That "Threaten National Unity" or "Denigrate Its Culture"

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Films that don't comply with new ideological requirements won't be granted exhibition licenses.

Russia's culture ministry has prepared new requirements for issuing exhibition licenses under which movies that "threaten national unity of the country or denigrate its culture" will be banned.

Russian news agency Interfax quoted an anonymous source in the ministry as saying that new ideological requirements will be introduced for obtaining an exhibition license.

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The source added that the new rule, previously not made public, was originally supposed to come into effect as of Jan. 1, but the introduction has been postponed so that amendments could be made.

The new date for enacting the requirements hasn't been announced yet. Similarly, it is not clear who will be making decisions regarding films' compliance with the requirements and how they will be interpreted.

The new law will be applied to all movies, Hollywood and Russian alike.

Some Russian filmmakers said they considered the ideological requirements a form of censorship. Newspaper Fontanka quoted director Yuri Mamin as saying that the initiative was reminiscent of the Stalin era. "Culture is being reduced to pure ideology," he said.

Users of the social media reacted to the news by saying that just about any movie that paints Russia in a less than favorable light, including Cannes- and Golden Globe-winner Leviathan by Andrei Zvyagintsev, could now be banned.

For the past year or so, the Russian government has moved toward stricter ideological control of the film industry.

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On July 1, 2014, a law banning profanity in movies, which many also viewed as censorship, was enacted. It hit a number of films, including Leviathan, which is scheduled to be released next month in Russia with all profanity bleeped out.

A few weeks later, in a separate move, a member of Russia’s parliament called for outlawing foreign movies that "demonize Russia and Russians."