A human rights documentary film festival was shut down by government authorities in Russia on 5 May 2014 over what organizers say is censorship of controversial content.
The May 32nd Film Festival had to cancel its opening event after Saint Petersburg officials claimed unlikely sounding local code violations. Fire inspectors shut down the venue hosting the event over alleged building code violations.
Two films in the lineup this year were particularly controversial: ‘Putin’s Games’, which is a film about corruption and ecological damage during preparations for the Winter Olympics in Sochi. And ‘Pussy riot: A Punk Prayer’, which won a special jury prize at Sundance Film Festival 2013.
This is the fourth year of the Saint Petersburg documentary film fest, but the first time it has been disrupted. Organisers say it always attracted a degree of attention from authorities over its human rights theme, but not anything like the scrutiny they’ve experienced this year.
The festival comes just ahead of Russia’s patriotic 9 May celebration, marking the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II and as independent media outlets critical of Russia’s role in Ukraine have experienced censorship.
Festival organizer Ksenia Vakhrusheva said police told her: “You all have such controversial topics raised in those films, and it is on the eve of the May 9th celebration, and we have such difficult circumstances in Ukraine.”
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