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Russia’s Caucasus regions bar 50 Shades of Grey from movie screens

February 12, 2015, 17:13 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
Scene from the movie 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

Scene from the movie 'Fifty Shades of Grey'

© Universal Pictures International press service

MOSCOW, February 12. /TASS/. Fifty Shades of Grey — Samantha (Sam) Taylor-Johnson’s screen version of a same-name scandalous novel by British novelist E. L. James — hit Russian screens on Thursday, February 12. The screening license ranks the movie 18+, but the authorities of some regions, with predominantly Muslim population, have decided to avoid showing the film at all for moral and ethical reasons following protests from the public at large.

Chechnya, Ingushetia and North Ossetia were the first to do so. Dagestan and Karachay-Cherkessia followed suit. Distributors in Chechnya and Ingushetia have declared the film was alien to the traditional local mentality and a sure box office failure. Moreover, they said, it might spark popular protests. Muslim organizations agree.

In the Krasnodar Territory, Orthodox activists have asked the Prosecutor-General’s Office to look into whether the Culture Ministry’s decision to issue a screening license for 50 Shades of Grey and to scrutinize it for traits that might let interpret it as pornographic.

The original novel and the film narrate the story of a turbulent affair between a bizarre billionaire and a woman student. The book brims with outspoken descriptions of sex scenes, some with an explicit BDSM flavor. In the West the novel instantly proved a best-seller beating all records and leaving critics stunned and bewildered, for its literary and artistic merits leave much to be desired.

It was a long while ago that films to be shown in Russia sparked such great public controversies as those of late. Before its forthcoming release 50 Shades of Grey aroused a vehement discussion, which certainly will work better than any advertising gimmick. Something of the sort happened just recently to Andrei Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, a winner of many international awards and a nominee for an Oscar. Leviathan came under the fire of criticism from the very same Orthodox activists for an unduly pessimistic description of Russia’s realities. As for 50 Shades of Grey, it is purely moral considerations that are in focus.

"Just look at the variety of choice on the billboards: from the doom and gloom of Leviathan and to this cheap porn," says an anonymous guest on the website of the Moscow daily Komsomolskaya Pravda. "The morality of Soviet era people was way higher."

"These days there has developed a distinct trend to put Russia’s cultural space in order, to make it better match the logic of shaping a national idea," deputy lecturer at the philosophy and sociology department at the presidential academy RANEPA, Tatyana Vaizer, told TASS. "For a national idea there must be points of support. Everything that interferes with achieving this goal is to be filtered away. Obscene vocabulary or over-indulgence in sex, for instance. Invectives against the authorities, too. This filter now works more often than it used to just recently.

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