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Russia drops tsar biopic after threats

September 13, 2017

MOSCOW: Russia’s biggest movie theatre chain said on Tuesday it was dropping from its line-up a film about an affair between tsar Nicholas II and a ballerina after hard-line activists threatened violence against any theatre screening it.

Matilda, a film directed by Alexei Uchitel, focuses on Russia’s last tsar Nicholas II’s historically documented relationship with ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska.

Aleksandra Artamonova, a spokeswoman for the Cinema Park and Formula Kino chains, said that a decision had been made not to screen Matilda due to “threats that movie theatres have recently been receiving from critics of the film”.

Months leading up to the release of the film — due out in late October — have been marked by protests of nationalist and Russian Orthodox activists who have condemned the biopic, saying Nicholas II must be shown as an untouchable holy figure.

Bolsheviks executed by firing squad tsar Nicholas and his family in 1918, ending the Romanov dynasty. The Russian Orthodox Church has declared them saints and holy martyrs.

The film’s most vocal critic has been 37-year-old pro-Kremlin lawmaker Natalia Poklonskaya, a former prosecutor in Moscow-annexed Crimea, who has gathered thousands of signatures against the film’s release.

The Russian Orthodox Church has for the past months distanced itself from the controversy but moved to denounce the acts of violence on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2017