“Matilda”, a film that is set to show in Russian theaters on October 26th, has been met with some violent protests by religious extremists. The story behind the movie is about a romance between future Tsar Nicholas II and a ballerina named Matilda.
Members of the Russian Orthodox Church are calling the movie blasphemous. Tsar Nicholas II was killed, along with his family, by Bolsheviks in 1918. In 1981, the members of the family were canonized as saints. Portraying scenes of a pre-marital affair has the Conservative Orthodox believers calling the film “blasphemous” and demanding it be banned.
But the controversy moved beyond protest and turned violent in early September when a movie theater in Yekaterinburg was the target of an fire set by attackers. Other incidents include cocktails thrown at the offices of filmmakers and two cars being set on fire outside the offices of the filmmaker’s lawyer.
These have reminded several people of the “Pussy Riots” of 2012 when a group of young women entered the altar area of Moscow’s Christ Savior Cathedral and performed a “punk prayer”. The video was posted on YouTube and caused an uproar with the women being arrested- two sentenced to two years in prison and one that was released on bail. It caused amendments to free speech legislation and criminalized “the offense of religious feelings”.
Although “Matilda” is based in some historical accuracy from accounts of the affair in journals, movie includes more drama than can be found within the journals. Many believe this to be a true test of Russia’s artistic freedoms, and many are hoping that it will continue to be featured as planned.