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MOSCOW, September 29. /TASS/. Members of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, who visited a private screening of the Matilda film by Alexei Uchitel on Thursday, spoke highly about the movie, which has been fiercely criticized by Russian Orthodox activists.
Earlier this month, the leader of the "Christian State, Holy Russia" movement, Alexander Kalinin, was detained under a criminal case on threats to cinema chains related to screening of Matilda. Two cinema chains have already announced they had to refuse from screening it due to threats.
Mikhail Yemelyanov of the A Just Russia party faction said he was baffled by the controversies around the movie and attacks on its director.
Commenting on the situation, Yemelyanov said: "It should go on screen, there should be no ban."
Another Just Russia lawmaker, Yelena Drapeko, said her opinion of Russia’s Nicholas II improved after the film, which depicts a romance between Russia’s last Tsar and ballerina Matilda Kschessinska before his marriage and coronation.
"Let me congratulate you. A wonderful, beautiful movie with perfect acting and good director’s work has appeared in Russia," she said. "I’m not a big fan of Nicholas II, but my opinion of him certainly improved after the film."
Yaroslav Nilov of the LDPR party, who took a most active role in drafting the bill on insulting religious beliefs during the previous convocation of the State Duma, said he saw no signs of any violation of the law.
"I was looking for something indecent, for some subplots that may contain elements of this offense, but I found none. My conclusion is that Nicholas II was a better person [than I thought], I now see him in an absolutely different light," he said.
The official screening of Matilda in the State Duma will be held on October 26, on the day of the movie’s official release. The film drew anger from Orthodox religious groups, who accuse it of tarnishing the image of Nicholas II, who was executed along with his family after the 1917 Bolshevik Revoluion and canonized as a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000.
A number of activists, including MP Natalia Poklonskaya, Crimea’s former prosecutor, have launched a campaign against the film, calling for its release to be cancelled and claiming that it will insult the feelings of Orthodox Believers.
A group calling itself "Christian State, Holy Russia" sent nearly a thousand letters with threats to movie theater owners across Russia, urging them to drop the screening of Matilda.
On September 11, two cars were set ablaze outside the office of Uchitel’s lawyer Konstantin Dobrynin in downtown Moscow. The attorney posted photos of the charred automobiles and notes left at the scene saying "Burn for Matilda" on his Facebook page.