Saturday, August 26, 2017

RUSSIA: Director Under House Arrest

Kirill Serebrennikov
The Russian Theatre Critics Association has issued a statement of its concern over undue pressure applied in the case of director Kirill Serebrennikov, who was arrested under cover of darkness in St. Petersburg and placed under house arrest in Moscow. An English translation of the critics' association follows here, with slight editing for clarity:
The Russian Theatre Critics Association, a national section of the International Association of Theatre Critics (AICT-IATC), has issued a public statement to express anxiety over pressure being exerted on theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov. 
Serebrennikov was deported at night by force to Moscow from St. Petersburg, where he was shooting a movie. The next day he was sentenced to house arrest by a regional court. 
The situation surrounding Serebrennikov grew more tense in July when the opening of the ballet Rudolph Nureyev, which he directed at Bolshoi Theatre, was canceled as controversial. 
Serebrennikov is accused of misusing funds that were targeted for a cultural project titled The Platform. One of the items in the prosecutor’s investigation implies that the production of Midsummer Night's Dream was not created at all. This assertion is false: the production has been seen dozens of times, it continues to run, received a range of reviews in various media, and was nominated for the national theatre prize, The Golden Mask. The investigation continues to assert that the work does not exist. 
There are deep doubts about the motivations for the prosecution of Serebrennikov. The responsibility of the stage director is unrelated to financial and production activities, which is covered by an investigation of the producer and the bursar for The Platform project. Serebrennikov never refused to answer questions in the course of the investigation of the case. 
His house arrest seems an unnecessary use of pressure on the artistic creator. Serebrennikov has never staged blatantly political performances. Nevertheless, the style and issues raised in his works are always fresh, unconventional, and truly innovative. The director was personally outspoken in support of liberal values. He was critical of the trial against the Pussy Riot group, of homophobic legislation, of church obscurantism, and he has supported transparent presidential elections. 
Just a month ago, the board of Europe Theatre Prize announced its decision to award Serebrennikov the New Theatrical Reality prize at this December’s event in Rome. 
Serebrennikov's impact in Russian culture is truly significant. He created several productions at the citadel of realistic theatre—the Moscow Art Theatre—and helped revive it for new audiences. He created The Seventh Studio of Moscow Art Theatre and educated a company of actors who used artistic language matched to a new dramatic style and thought for the generation now emerging. This group has undertaken The Platform project that received The Golden Mask in 2012, titled The Scoundrels, about right-wing radicals in contemporary Russia. 
Serebrennikov supervised the rebranding of a Moscow theatre house as the Gogol Center, which has attracted young crowds and become one of most thrilling places for drama in Moscow. Productions created by Serebrennikov generated discussion and sometimes controversy among its audiences. Now under house arrest, he is unable to complete a theatre production for the Gogol Center in addition to his film about the early the Russian rock 'n' roll generation that was shooting in St. Petersburg. His project of opera film of Hansel and Gretel at Stuttgart Opera house, filmed partly in Rwanda, must be postponed. 
The Russian Theatre Critics Association hopes that the international community of theatre critics will support our attempts to protect the social and artistic rights of Kirill Serebrennikov and of the evolving Russian artistic culture.                — August 24, 2017
Deadline's Greg Evans also reported on August 24 that the European Film Academy called for the "unconditional release" of Serebrennikov in an article that showed the director in an apparent holding cell. A tweet by Pussy Riot is quoted in the Deadline piece saying that Serebrennikov "had been placed under house arrest by 'Putin's butchers.'"

Holding cell? Kirill Serebrennikov Photo: REX/Shutterstock