And the Oscar doesn’t go to... Why is Russia boycotting the Academy Awards?

Amid growing tensions with Washington over the Ukraine war, Russia said it will not submit entries to the Oscars. This is the first time the country has boycotted the coveted film awards since the fall of the Soviet Union

FP Explainers September 28, 2022 13:21:55 IST
And the Oscar doesn’t go to... Why is Russia boycotting the Academy Awards?

Representational image. Wikimedia Commons

Russia’s isolation from the world continues as the war in Ukraine reaches a critical point. Its ties with the United States, which has slapped the Kremlin with sanctions after strict sanctions since the February invasion, have plummeted. Now Russia has announced that it will not be submitting a film for the upcoming 2023 international Oscars race.

This is the first time that the country has boycotted the coveted film awards since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Let’s take a closer look.

The war and the boycott 

The boycott was announced amid growing tensions between Washington and Moscow following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February this year.

According to AFP, the boycott was announced by the Russian film academy on Monday evening. The Kremlin recently accused the United States administration of having a direct role in the Ukraine war and has threatened to cut all ties with the country, according to a report by Variety.

The Russian academy said in a statement, “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.”

Crisis in Russia’s Oscar committee 

Pavel Tchoukhraï, president of Russia’s Oscar committee – which is responsible for sending movies to the Academy – was reportedly kept in the dark about the boycott, according to a report by the AV Club. He said that the move to boycott the Oscars was an “illegal” decision that was made “behind his back”. Tchoukhraï has since resigned from his position.

“The leadership of the Film Academy of Russia unilaterally decided not to nominate a Russian film for the Oscar nomination,” wrote Pavel in a letter that was published by the state news agency Tass.

An expert on the Russian film industry, Joel Chapron, told Variety that following Pavel’s resignation several other members of the committee stepped down.

Some other members left the committee months ago when the war started. One of the members, Evgeniy Gindilis said, “We can’t do business as usual when we’re at war. I left the committee on 27 February after Russia invaded Ukraine.”

Supporting the boycott

The boycott has found support from the filmmaker and the head of the Russian Cinematographers Union, Nikita Mikhalkov. He has been a vocal supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Nikita had proposed to create an award equivalent to Oscars for countries of the post-Soviet region, citing that Russia had nothing to gain by participating in this year’s Oscars. “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, according to The Guardian.

Some members of the Oscar committee also supported Russia’s decision to forgo the Oscars. Among them is Karen Shakhnazarov, a Russian filmmaker, producer and screenwriter who compared the US with Nazi Germany. “Sending a film to the US would be like sending a film to Germany during the Second World War to get the prize of the Third Reich,” he told Krasnaya Vesna, a local media outlet called.

Russian films at the Oscars

Known to have a strong track record with the Academy, Russia has regularly submitted films for the Oscars.

According to The Guardian, the last two movies that were nominated for the best international feature film were Leviathan in 2014 and Loveless in 2017 directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev.

Both the movies addressed political issues of the country like corruption and the role of the Orthodox church which caused a stir in Moscow.

Apart from these two movies, Kantemir Balagov’s Beanpole in 2019 and Andrei Konchalovsky’s Dear Comrades in 2020, were shortlisted for the best international feature honour.

Russia sanctions Hollywood actors

The country’s boycott is not limited to the Oscars.

Recently, Russia imposed personal sanctions on 25 Americans including actors Sean Penn and Ben Stiller as a response to US sanctions against Russians amid the war.

The “stop list” forbade these American individuals from entering the Russian border on the “principle of reciprocity”.

Both Penn and Stiller have been vocal critics of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to a report by NPR, Sean is an activist involved in relief work while Ben is a goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

With inputs from agencies

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