Russia's Culture Ministry Sues Movie Theater for Screening Armando Iannucci's 'The Death of Stalin'

Courtesy of TIFF
'The Death of Stalin'

Moscow-based theater Pioner screened the film, which had been banned by authorities for "mocking Russia's past."

Russia's culture ministry has filed a lawsuit against the Moscow movie theater Pioner for defying its ban on Armando Iannucci's The Death of Stalin and screening the movie five times in late January.

The agency claims that the movie theater — which is focused on art house cinema and is owned by tycoon Alexander Mamut — deliberately violated the law, along with the Formula Kino and Cinema Park theater chains.

The theater, in turn, said that it screened The Death of Stalin on Jan. 25-27 because by then, it had not yet received information that the movie's exhibition license was revoked, news agency TASS reported.

The Death of Stalin, a black comedy focused on partially fictional infighting in the Kremlin that followed the death of Soviet ruler Joseph Stalin in 1953, came under fire in Russia for allegedly mocking the country's past and making fun of its leaders.

The culture ministry originally issued an exhibition license to the film, but then revoked it just two days before it was scheduled to open in theaters on Jan. 25.

Pioner was the only theater in the country that defied the ban, and it is now facing a fine as the screening of movies that don't have a valid exhibition license is considered to be violation of the law in Russia.

On Jan. 26, the theater was raided by police, but a showing of Death of Stalin was already over by that time and officers took no action.

Mamut didn't comment on the issue, and it wasn't clear at the time whether he was aware of the theater's decision to screen the banned movie.