Russia’s Culture Ministry Postpones Privatization of Lenfilm Following Protests From Top Directors

Sources say authorities don’t wont to upset people in the run-up to parliamentary and presidential elections.

MOSCOW – The privatization of Lenfilm, Russia’s oldest film studio, has been put on hold after several prominent directors stood up against it.

A month ago, renowned Russian directors Alexander Sokurov and Alexei German sent a letter to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, expressing concerns that St Petersburg-based Lenfilm could lose its role as a production base for independent and non-commercial cinema.

Now the country’s culture ministry has recalled a plan for a “state-private partnership” between the state-owned studio and the private group AFK Sistema, the owner of the Russian World Studios.

Although Lenfilm badly needs investment for renovation, the Russian film community has been concerned that its privatization could lead to turning the studio into a platform for strictly commercial film production or, under the very worst scenario, to its conversion for uses outside the film industry.

Senior state officials apparently took the hint. “Despite all the traditions of Lenfilm, we have to admit that the studio is in a state similar to that of Stalingrad of WWII,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by the daily Vedomosti. “But the need for an investor doesn’t mean that he could take over the studio and use the premises for different purposes.”

The report also quoted an unnamed Kremlin top official as saying that authorities had backed down because they did not want to upset high-profile people in the artistic community in the run-up for presidential and parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile, Sistema tried to play down the situation. “The documents are being revised,” the group’s spokesman told The Hollywood Reporter. “It is okay to make amendments.”