A Russian court on Thursday slapped a $1,700 fine on a Moscow cinema which screened British comedy “The Death of Stalin” in defiance of an official ban, prompting a police raid.
The film, which depicts the power struggle in the politburo following the death of the Soviet dictator, was to have been released last month but was banned at the last minute following an outcry by conservative figures.
The judge fined the arthouse Pioneer Cinema 100,000 rubles (1,450 euros) for the administrative violation of screening the film last month without a distribution certificate, Russian agencies reported.
The Russian culture ministry had withdrawn a certificate to distribute the film just days before its planned premiere on January 25, saying officials found it contained “information whose distribution is legally banned in Russia.”
Pioneer, which showed “The Death of Stalin” four times, told AFP in a statement that it would appeal the fine.
“It’s impossible to violate a screening ban by the Culture Ministry that the cinema hadn’t been notified about,” says Pioner Cinema, fined for screening #DeathofStalin without a license https://t.co/IMTtdhbfiv pic.twitter.com/ts5hymY3Qr
— The Moscow Times (@MoscowTimes) February 22, 2018
The Anglo-French film was set for a limited release in cinemas after local distributors gained an 18+ certificate, but controversy following a private screening for officials and directors caused the ministry to backtrack.
The film was accused of “lampooning the history of our country” and “blackening the memory of our citizens who conquered fascism,” according to a letter published on the culture ministry’s website.
But Pioneer Cinema went ahead and showed Armando Iannucci‘s dark comedy despite the ban, with police officers later raiding the venue.
The cinema pulled the rest of the planned screenings, citing “reasons beyond our control” and promised to refund all tickets.
— The Death of Stalin (@Death_of_Stalin) February 21, 2018