Russia to boycott Oscars as cultural isolation deepens

Entertainment Desk Published: 28 September 2022, 01:11 PM
Russia to boycott Oscars as cultural isolation deepens
The decision not to submit a film for the Oscars is latest evidence of how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has divided the country’s cultural scene. Photograph: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Russia will not submit a film to the Oscars this year, the first time the country has boycotted the prestigious film awards since the fall of the Soviet Union, as Moscow’s cultural isolation deepens, reports The Guardian.

“The presidium of the Film Academy of Russia has decided not to nominate a national film for the Oscars award of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2022,” the Russian academy said in a statement on Monday.

The chairman of Russia’s Oscar nomination commission announced in a letter on Tuesday that he was resigning following the move, which he said was an “illegal” decision taken “behind his back”.

“The leadership of the [Film] Academy [of Russia] unilaterally decided not to nominate a Russian film for the Oscar nomination,” Pavel Chukhray wrote in a letter published by the state news agency Tass announcing he was stepping down from his post.

Russia won the award for best international feature film award, previously known as best foreign language film, once before, in 1994 with Burnt by the Sun.

The film, directed by veteran the film-maker Nikita Mikhalkov, portrays a Red Army officer and his wife disturbed by the return of an ex-lover during the Stalinist repression in 1936.

Mikhalkov, 76, who leads the Russian Cinematographers Union, has since become a vocal supporter of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and has emerged as one of the most vociferous pro-war figures in the country.

Earlier, Mikhalkov told the Russian state-run Tass news agency that Russia had nothing to gain by participating in this year’s Oscars, proposing instead to create an equivalent prize for countries of the post-Soviet region.

“It seems to me that choosing a film that will represent Russia in a country, which in reality currently denies the existence of Russia, simply does not make sense,” he said.

The last two Russian movies nominated for best international feature film were Leviathan and Loveless, in 2014 and 2017 respectively, by the director Andrey Zvyagintsev. Both movies addressed political issues in the country including corruption and the role of the Orthodox church, causing a stir in Moscow.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has further divided the country’s cultural scene, with many prominent directors emigrating. Among them were Kantemir Balagov and Kira Kovalenko, two promising young directors whose movies were submitted to the Oscars in 2019 and 2021.

Russia has also put Vitaly Mansky, one of the country’s most celebrated documentary film-makers and a critic of the invasion of Ukraine, on a wanted list.