Khodorkovsky Documentary Shut Out Of Russian Movie Houses

Jailed Russian oil baron Mikhail Khodorkovsky isn't going to be released anytime soon. In Russia, a new documentary about his life is struggling to see the light of day as well. “Khodorkovsky” is set for release Dec. 1 -- but virtually no cinemas

Screenshot from
Screenshot from
Andrei Kozenko

MOSCOW -- A German film about imprisoned Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky is set for release in Russia next week, but it is unlikely that many here will actually have an opportunity to see it. That's because most Russian theaters have declined to screen "Khodorkovsky," as the documentary is titled. In Moscow, only one movie house has agreed to show the film, which tells the story of the former Yukos Oil owner arrested in 2003 on charges of fraud.

"When we acquired the rights to the film in September 2011, we held discussions with many theaters and chains, and got several preliminary agreements for release," said Olga Papernaya, the art director of the company promoting the film in Russia. "But when it came time to sign an agreement, we ran up against refusals. They are all oral refusals, so we can only guess what is really behind it."

According to Papernaya, the first cinema network to refuse to show the film was "Moskino," a group owned by the city government of Moscow. Then another theater decided to show the documentary only once, on Dec. 2. Papernaya says that after these refusals, there was a "chain reaction," with a total of 19 refusals. "It seems like there was a decision made at some point by theater managers and owners, and it seems like that was connected to calls from government officials," she said.

The movie theaters of St. Petersburg also refused, as did those in Novosibirsk, where Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 and where the film's director – Cyril Tuschi of Germany – had hoped to appear for the premier. The film was first unveiled this past February during the Berlin Film Festival.

The documentary was shot from 2005 to 2011, although both the Russian government and many of Khodorkovsky's partisans refused to cooperate with the project, thinking that the main character was portrayed as being too controversial. There were also constant problems with sponsors. Filming took place in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Chita, Strasbourg, New York, Tel Aviv and London – all cities that were connected in some way to the Yukos affair. The film contains many high-profile interviews, including with Khodorkovsky and members of his family.

A professional break-in

The documentary was finished in time for the Berlin Film Festival, but five days before the festival opened, the production company's office was broken into and the final version of the film was stolen. German authorities described it as a very professional break-in. Luckily Tuschi had other copies of the final cut, and the film was shown at the festival as planned. Berlin police never found the thieves.

Nobody from Moskino would comment for this article. Sergei Kapkov, head of the culture department of Moscow's city government, said, "I have no idea why this film is not being shown. But in terms of some kind of prohibition, I can tell you that city workers do not have that kind of leverage over what is shown in private movie theaters."

Another movie theater owner said his chain decided to pass on the film simply because it does not show documentaries. Olga Papernaya is not convinced.

"Especially since parliamentary elections are approaching, I think this will become an international scandal. The European press is following the fate of Cyril Tuschi's film," she said. "On its own, though, the film can't change the political situation. It contains only well-known facts. But it's possible the real reason for the refusals is that showing the film on the big screen has a much larger emotional impact than several small articles in the media."

Read the original story in Russian

Photo - YouTube

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!