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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Russia's Swearing Ban Blanks Out Vulgarity in Hit Film Leviathan

Leviathan shows harsh realities in a far-flung northern community
The Oscar-nominated Russian film Leviathan is going on general release in Russian cinemas, but with silence blanking out the many swear words.

It is a highly controversial film in Russia, portraying a corrupt mayor in the bleak far north bullying a man trying to keep his property.

The distributor, A-Company Russia, says the film has not been cut, but Russian cinema-goers will not hear swear words.

Russian law bans swearing in films, TV broadcasts, theatres and the media. (see below).

Much of the dialogue in Leviathan contains swearing, some of it very strong language. A spokesman for the distributor said Russian viewers "will find it easy to lip-read the swear words".

Leviathan is already on show in London and it received a best screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival last May.

It also won a Golden Globe for best foreign film and in Russia it got a Golden Eagle award.

Yelena Liadova plays a long-suffering wife in Leviathan
Demand for Leviathan among Russian cinemas has outstripped predictions, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reports.

It will be shown in 650 cinemas - more than double the number that had been anticipated.

Director Andrey Zvyagintsev takes aim at bureaucratic power in Russia

The film's producer, Alexander Rodnyansky, said interest had surged since a pirated copy appeared on the internet a month ago and the film had become a hot topic of debate.

Director Andrey Zvyagintsev said he was pleased that the film had sharply divided opinion in Russia.

"The film is necessary, the audience confirms that," he was quoted as saying on the Newsru.com website (in Russian).

"Society and the country are divided. The polarised viewpoints indicate that we hit the target," he said.

Some have seen the film as a condemnation of President Vladimir Putin's Russia. A big photo of Mr Putin hangs above the corrupt mayor's desk.

However, Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he was pleased that Leviathan had triggered such sharp reactions in society.

Russian law bans swearing in arts and media

Moscow cinema entrance It is not yet clear how Russian censors
will deal with swearing in imported films
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law banning all swearing in films, television broadcasts, theatres and the media.

Offenders will face fines - as much as 50,000 roubles (£829; $1,400) for organisations, or up to 2,500 roubles (£41; $70) for individuals.

The fines don't appear to be excessive for big productions or individuals. Smaller productions will be hit hardest.

Is it fair? Is it a reasonable law? Is it a step in returning to Communist order? I don't know, but personally, I like it. I despise the vulgar language that is so popular these days. So, while I somewhat admire Putin's desire to clean up Russia, I wish he would start with the oligarchy, but, alas, they are too close to him.

Where disputes arise a panel of experts will decide exactly what counts as a swear word.

Books containing swear words will have to carry warnings on the cover.

Russia's Vesti news website says that, according to sociologists' research, swearing is common in two-thirds of Russian companies.

The law will take effect from 1 July and will not apply to cases of swearing at performances before that date.

A leading pro-Putin film director and now MP, Stanislav Govorukhin, was one of the new law's architects.

The law harks back to the conservatism of the Soviet period, when the Communist Party required artists and writers to avoid "decadent" Western fashions and to stick to traditional values.

Traders who fail to give consumers warnings about swearing in videos or other audiovisual products will risk having their licences withdrawn.

It is not clear whether the ban on swearing in the media will also extend to Russian users of international social media such as Twitter and Facebook.