Tovarisch, I Am Not Dead.
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Monday, 21 April 2008

Tovarisch, I Am Censored

Some 55 years after the demise of Stalin, and 17 years after the fall of communism, it seems that the Gulag and the KGB are still hot potatoes.

A major satellite TV group called Viasat Broadcasting
was about to buy this film for Pay TV in 33 countries, including all the former communist territories that comprised the Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc, and former Yugoslavia. At the very closing stage of 5 months of negotiation on 18th March 2008 I got this last minute email from Acquisitions.Manager Vicky Watts:

“I’m unfortunately no longer in a position to move forward with the deal offer. We have concerns about the sensitivity of the title in Russia. The current climate and viewership in Russia is that our Compliance department are having to monitor very closely the programmes we would like for the channel. The decision has been made that this is unfortunately not going to sit comfortably with us, in view of the territories we broadcast in.

I am really sorry that this has only come to light at this time, but all titles are subject to the approval of both our Programming and Compliance teams.

Kind regards,

This broadcasting group is based in Scandinavia. It seems that even in the liberal Nordic environs of the Arctic Circle, west of my father was imprisoned, business takes precedence over survivors recounting how their human rights were robbed six decades ago.

Interestingly, this squares with cultural policies whereby I understand that state-sponsored film festivals dare not show a film such as this in Russia. My co-producer and editor, Emily Harris, was even told in St Petersburg by a somewhat shamefaced festival programmer that they had been told to steer clear of this kind of material. Only the Stalker Film Festival in Moscow, a human rights event independent of the government, has shown this apparently controversial movie!

We knew about the terror applied to critics of the current regime such as Litvinenko and Politkovskaya. It seems that even the past is taboo. The dead hand of Stalin rests on the Kremlin, and woe betide any Western business entities that ignore that fact.

If anyone can has any helpful comments, I would love to hear!

Monday, 14 April 2008


At the time of writing, Tovarisch has participated at some twenty or so international film festivals, picking up half a dozen awards and several nominations, including the British Independent Film Awards.

Below are a sample of 10 months of festival-hopping.
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