Russian 'Death of Stalin' Distributor Plans January Release

Courtesy of TIFF
'The Death of Stalin'

Volga is currently working on dubbing, after which it will apply for an exhibition license despite earlier calls for banning the movie in Russia.

Volga, the Russian distributor of Armando Iannucci's The Death of Stalin, unveiled on Thursday that it plans to release the movie on Jan. 25.

Work on the dubbing of the movie into Russian is currently in progress, after which the company will be able to submit it to the Russian culture ministry and formally apply for an exhibition license, a spokeswoman for Volga told The Hollywood Reporter.

Earlier this month, Volga released a localized trailer and poster for the movie.

Under existing regulations, the ministry can issue an exhibition license only based on a dubbed or subtitled version of a foreign movie rather than the original. Dubbing is a more complicated and expensive process than subtitling, and it is normally done for movies intended for a wider release, as opposed to subtitled art house films only exhibited at a handful of theaters.

The fact that Volga is dubbing may be seen as a sign of its confidence that it will get an exhibition license. 

Two months ago, Russia's Communist Party, the second-largest party in Russia's parliament, called for a ban of the "disgusting" movie, saying it "discredits" late Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Back then, the culture ministry said it would subject the movie to extra scrutiny.

A source in the industry told THR that the culture ministry could theoretically refuse to issue an exhibition license on a technicality, if not because of its content, although it has hardly ever done it.

Back in 2015, the culture ministry took issue with Lionsgate's movie Child 44, accusing it of "distorting Russia's history." The distributor, Central Partnership, voluntarily pulled the movie from theaters.

There are no specific guidelines, and the ministry is free to make its own judgment on whether the content of a movie is appropriate for it to be exhibited in Russia.

The ministry could also refuse to issue a license to a movie if the submitted copy doesn't comply with technical specifications.