Russian Filmmakers Rally to Prevent Cinema Museum Chief From Getting Fired

The Russian culture minister is seeking to pushed out Naum Kleiman, founder and director of Moscow’s Cinema Museum.

WROCLAW, Poland -- Leading Russian directors, producers and filmmakers are urging the country’s minister of culture to cancel a move to fire Naum Kleiman, the founder and head of Moscow’s cinema museum.

They warn that reports that Kleiman, 75, will be relieved of his post Aug. 12 will have “the most serious negative consequences for the future of Russian cinema.”

Kleiman, an expert on the work of Soviet director Sergey Eisenstein, mounted a dogged campaign to save the museum in 2004 when it was forced to move from premises at a building owned by the filmmakers’ union.

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At the time it was feared the eviction would spell the end of the museum, breaking up its collection of classic films and more than 400,000 artefacts spanning a century of Russian and world cinema.

Kleiman won worldwide support to save the museum when leading Hollywood figures, including Quentin Tarantino lent their names to a petition to save it.

In 2004 Tarantino was given a guided tour of the museum by Kleiman, the year that Kill Bill 2 opened the Moscow International Film Festival.

The museum eventually relocated to film studios Mosfilm and Kleiman continued his work.

The move to force Kleiman to quit appears to be part of a policy by culture minister Vladimir Medinsky to bring in new, younger blood to cultural institutions.

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Last month Moscow film festival program director Kirill Rozlogov, 67, was forced out as director of the Russian Institute for Cultural Research.

State pension ages in Russia are low by world standards -- 55 for women and 60 for men -- but heads of museums and cultural institutes frequently work into advanced old age.

The open letter to Medinsky, signed by producer/director Fedor Bondarchuk, producer Sergey Selyanov, directors Alexander Sokurov and Sergey Solovyev and Konstantin Ernst, head of Russia’s top national TV station, Channel One, and others, notes that a generation of Russian filmmakers have been nurtured by Kleiman and the museum.

“Naum Kleiman created the film museum. He is not just its director, but parent and father. Parents are not expelled from the family home,” the letter states.

It urges Medinsky to ensure that Kleiman “in full bloom of [his] creative forces” is given full artistic independence for managing the museum, caring for its collection and programming the film screening program at the museum.

Kleiman, who is due to meet senior officials at the ministry of culture Friday, declined to comment.