Russian Cinema Fund Replaces Executive Director

The move comes amid a conflict between the agency and culture ministry.

MOSCOW – A new head of the Russian Cinema Fund, the country’s main film funding agency, has been appointed amid a conflict between the agency and culture ministry.

On Jan. 29, at a meeting of the Russian Cinema Fund’s board of trustees, it was announced that the agency’s executive director Sergei Tolstikov is stepping down and will be replaced by Anton Malyshev.

No explanations for the move were provided, but Tolstikov’s resignation comes just a few weeks after criticism of the fund’s activities by culture minister Vladimir Medinsky, which Tolstikov fended off. Medinsky mainly criticized the fund for the poor box-office performance of local movies, the lion's share of which were financed by the fund, and concluded that the existing system of state support for the film sector isn’t working.

Soon after that, the culture ministry was able to strengthen its control over cash intended for the film industry, which is to amount to $172 million in 2013. Of that figure, the culture ministry is to administer $74.7 million, up from 2012’s $48.7 million, while the Cinema Fund’s budget has been reduced from $126.6 million to $97.3 million. The culture ministry also obtained the right to approve all projects the Cinema Fund is to support, though it isn’t yet clear by what criteria.

“If the culture ministry wants to approve projects on ideological grounds, that is called censorship,” Tolstikov said at a roundtable meeting in December, also accusing the culture ministry of lacking a clear policy in the area of cinema.

Malyshev, the son of Vladimir Malyshev, the rector of the National State Cinema Institute (VGIK), has produced several features but recently worked as an aide to the president’s envoy to the Central Federal District. His candidacy reportedly was approved by the culture ministry.

By supporting Malyshev, the ministry “counted on a promising manager who could give a boost to the development of the industry,” Ivan Demidov, deputy culture minister in charge of the film sector, was quoted as saying by the wire service RIA Novosti.