Russia Opens Discussions on China-Style Hollywood Film Cap

From Russia With Love
Films such as the James Bond series might not make it on to Russian screens. United Artists

Russia's culture minister, Vladimir Medinsky, has opened discussions to cap the number of Hollywood films being shown in Russia - or even to ban them altogether - at a parliamentary meeting held by Russia's Communist Party after mounting pressure from MPs to limit Western films in the country.

"In this country Hollywood productions make up around 70% of the industry, whereas in China they allow about 20 American films a year," Medinsky said in parliament. "They limit it, while we have a free-for-all."

"If parliament began discussing the issue of limiting the number of Hollywood productions seriously, [the ministry] would happily support them," Medinsky assured his colleagues.

The Ministry of Culture has previously refused proposals to ban American cinema in Russia, despite the issue being raised on several occasions, however, in a surprising U-turn, Medinsky now invited colleagues to "sit down and talk".

Members of the All-Russia People's Front (ONF), a cultural watchdog created by President Vladimir Putin to bring "new ideas and new faces" to parliamentary debates, has drafted several plans to cut back on Russia's exposure to U.S. films over the last few months.

In September, Russian director and member of the ONF Yuriy Kara made a plea, publicly requesting that all U.S.-made film productions be banned in Russia as a response to U.S. and Western economic sanctions. According to Kara the ban would also serve to promote Russian cinema.

The Ministry of Culture rejected the suggestion of a wholesale ban then, refusing to include cultural imports into the conflict of sanctions and counter-sanctions.

The rejection was then followed up by the ONF's leader, Stanislav Govorukhin, proposing a cap on U.S.-produced films, limiting the number of Hollywood motion pictures shown in Russian theatres to 60 per year "but not for the sake of Russian cinema".

Rather, Govorukhin suggested productions from "countries rich in cinematographic culture" be promoted in Russian theatres such as Turkey, Korea, Iran, Japan and from all across Europe.

Playwright and Newsweek Europe writer Natalia Antonova believes the political mood of the moment in Russia could prompt a partial, though unsuccessful ban on American cinema.

"In the current atmosphere of anti-Western hysteria, it could very well happen," Antonova said.

"I think the minister is trying to look patriotic as is expected of all prominent officials. The cap, in theory, will encourage the Russian film industry to be more productive and popular - but in reality, you can't stimulate your own industry by isolating yourself," she added.

"I think more people will just download Hollywood movies online. It will be a win for piracy, at best. It will also negatively affect movie theatre chains."

In November, Hollywood found an unlikely defender in the form of President Vladimir Putin who addressed ONF campaigns to restrict US productions, saying "the American people are talented and very successful so there is something to learn from them".

"It would be silly to restrict the Russian consumer access to products they want, including film productions," Putin told officials.

Since then, however, relations between Russia and the West have worsened as EU and US sanctions have continued to cause the rouble to plummet faster than any other currency this year.

Putin has since announced he will meet culture ministry officials and representatives next week to agree on a new overarching "government culture policy".