Moscow International Film Festival cancels screening of film about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Jivan Avetisyan's film" Gate to Heaven" gets censored over violence worries

Armenian creator Jivan Avetisyan's film "Gate to Heaven" has been removed from the non-competitive program of the Moscow International Film Festival. Kirill Razlogov, program director for the 42nd annual Moscow film festival which opens Thursday, told Interfax that the decision was made as a precautionary measure:

 “The picture was removed due to the fact that it is directly related to Karabakh, to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, to military actions […] When the escalation of hostilities began, it was decided that in order to avoid clashes between Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Moscow and around Karabakh, we will refrain from showing the picture, even though the picture is good […] This is a precautionary measure in relation to the picture, which is directly related to Karabakh,”


Gate to Heaven” tells the love story of a German journalist returning to cover the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2016 and a younger opera singer whose father he had abandoned during the war’s early years in the early 1990s.


Producer K. Drazdauskas claims that the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh in the film is only the background. “There are, for example, scenes where we see the injured. But there is no assessment of the situation or political statements - it is not said who is attacking what, who is right, ”he stated. 


According to him, the Lithuanian Film Center also came under pressure, which had decided to finance the production of the film and later withdrew its support. "It simply came to our notice then. If we are an independent state, we should be free to choose what to finance, ”said K. Drazdauskas. It is true that in Lithuania the film used an advantage for film production, which is indirect state aid. The order of the director of the Lithuanian Film Center states that the funding will be revoked "if the circumstances of the project implementation have become clear, which were not disclosed in the application".


Golden Apricot Yerevan International Film Festival has sent letters to other partner international film festivals announcing the removal of a director Avetisyan's film. The Armenian festival called on partners to respond and condemn this move by the Moscow Festival. Below is a list of festivals to which an official letter has been sent by Golden Apricot:

▪Berlin International Film Festival
▪Cannes Film Festival 
▪Locarno Film Festival 
▪Tallinn Film Festival 
▪International Film Festival Rotterdam
▪Sofia International Film Festival
▪Tbilisi International Film Festival
▪Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
▪San Sebastian Film Festival
▪Busan International Film Festival
▪Warsaw Film Festival
▪Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival
▪Cairo International Film Festival
▪Sarajevo Film Festival
▪Venice International Film Festival 

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