The Ministry of Culture's decision has received strong criticism on social media
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Azerbaijan has made a decision to cancel the screening of the film The Death of Stalin (previously banned in Russia) in the country’s cinemas on the very day of its premiere.
Zaur Darabzadeh, the executive director of the CinemaPlus cinema network told the haqqin.az website a week before suspension of the film screening that the ‘scandalous’ French-British comedy would be shown in Azerbaijan anyway. The film screening was announced on the CinemaPlus website.
However, the day before the film premiere the Azerbaijani Culture and Tourism Ministry reviewed the film behind closed doors and decided to cancel its screening in the cinemas.
“The film tells about WWII developments, and that’s our history. The Ministry of Culture believes that the way things are portrayed in this film insults the memory of those who perished in that war,” said Darabzadeh.
The Death of Stalin is a comedy film by the British director Armando Iannucci. The film’s political thrust of jokes are reminiscent of Sasha Baron Cohen’s film The Dictator. The movie is about the struggle for power in the USSR, and presents Soviet leaders Khrushchev, Beria and Zhukov in a comical manner.
The Russia banned the screening of The Death of Stalin in the country’s cinemas at end of January this year. Having reviewed the film, the Public Council at the Russian Ministry of Culture concluded that the film didn’t have either historical or cultural value and that it desecrated ‘historical symbols’ such as the Soviet anthem, hymns and medals. In view of the aforesaid the Russian Ministry of Culture withdrew the rental certificate for the film. Following this decision the Volga film company, which is an exclusive distributor of the given film, withdrew The Death of Stalin.
“The Russian Culture Ministry’s ban on screening of The Death of Stalin has actually led to its banning in the entire post-Soviet space, including in Azerbaijan,” the haqqin.az publication reads. However, in Georgia the film The Death of Stalin is freely shown in cinemas and there haven’t been any discussions on it possibly being banned.
The Ministry’s decision to cancel the screening of The Death of Stalin has caused a sharp negative reaction on Azerbaijan’s social media. Here are some typical Facebook comments:
“The decision of the Ministry of Culture proves that Azerbaijan is not an independent state.”
“They haven’t even watched the film. I would have made an issue about Beria saying ‘it stinks like in a Baku loo’. Meanwhile, Zhukov, on the contrary, is portrayed as a kind of macho man. Generally speaking, it’s a good film, though I find it sad rather than funny.”
“Azerbaijan is acting more like Russia nowadays. Europhobia, bans on film screening … so, what’s next -Gulag and Belamorkanal?”
“Why should we care about the Russian ban? We proclaimed our independence in 1991, didn’t we? So, why should Stalin be our hero? That system destroyed the best part of our intelligentsia. The blessed memory of our compatriots who were killed in WWII has nothing to do with this film.”