New legislation banning use of obscene words came into effect yesterday [July 1].

Russia’s arthouse film-makers are preparing for hard times ahead as new legislation came into effect on Tuesday [July 1] banning the use of obscene words in films, stage plays, musical performances, and the media.

Speaking to Business FM, director Boris Khlebnikov [pictured] said that there had been obscene language in almost all of his films because it was “somehow necessary”.

However, there hadn’t been any such language in his last film, the rural-set A Long And Happy Life, which had been part-funded by the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Culture.

“The most curious thing was that four old ladies came up to me one after another, said they liked the cinema, but that people don’t speak like that in the countryside,”Khlebnikov recalled. “It is impossible to reproduce rural speech without swearing.”

Set on the Kola peninsula north of Murmansk, A Long And Happy Life was in the Berlinale’s main competition last year and is handled internationally by Films Boutique.

Anna Pendrakovskaya, chairperson of Gosfilmofond, told that the new law would have an effect on film clubs and the screening of arthouse films rather than on the powerful companies.

She argued that the law “will not hit commercial [films], but the very development of cinema”. Therefore, she argued that a ‘time out’ should be taken until the end of the year in order to revise the law.

Indeed, Moscow International Film Festival’s president Nikita Mikhalkov had himself suggested last weekend that there might be a need “to make some corrections, but not change the whole law. And it may be necessary to look at the individual cases”.

Moreover President Putin’s adviser in cultural affairs, Vladimir Tolstoy, had already indicated that one could not expect a blanket ban on the use of obscene words since they often served the artist as a particular form of expression.

Nevertheless, producers have had to develop strategies in order to obtain that all-important distribution certificate in order to be able to release - either by changing the film’s soundtrack or inserting bleeps over the offending words.

A new soundtrack was added to Anna Melikyan’s new film Star (Zvezda) which won the prize for best director at the Kinotavr Open Russian Film Festival in Sochi last month, while producer Fyodor Bondarchuk was considering inserting bleeps over the swearwords in Valeria Gai Germanika’s prize-winning grunge drama Yes and Yes.

That film had still been shown in the original version in selected cinemas in Moscow last Saturday, Sunday and Monday before the controversial new law kicked in.

Meanwhile, Izvestiya reported yesterday that figures from the Russian arts world are behind the establishment of an online register  under the sub-headings of Cinema, Literature, Theatre and Music to show the extent of the works which would fall victim to this new law.

In addition, an online petition is in the works to call for the law to be overhauled.

Swiss government greenlights CHF 5m stop-gap to replace MEDIA

More encouraging news from Switzerland where the Swiss film industry had been out in the cold after being cut off from the European Union’s Creative Europe programme since the beginning of this year.

Federal Councillor Alain Berset signed a decree on Monday [June 30] freeing up CHF 5m as a stop-gap measure to compensate for Switzerland being ousted from the EU’s MEDIA Programme for 2014.

Applications - backdated to Jan 1, 2014 - to receive support for project development, selective and automatic distribution, training programmes, market access for professionals, and film festivals can now be submitted to Switzerland’s Federal Office of Culture (BAK) which is coordinating the measures with the Swiss MEDIA Desk.

At the same time, moves are afoot from both the Swiss and EU sides to have Switzerland a member of the MEDIA sub-programme - as well as the overall Creative Europe framework programme including Culture - from Jan 1, 2015.

Albania joins Creative Europe

Meanwhile, Albania has become the latest non-EU member state after Serbia last month to become a member of the Creative Europe programme.

Under the EU’s previous Culture Programme from 2007-2013, the small Balkan country had received some €170,000 in funding for four literary transilation projects.

As is the case with Serbia, Albania will also be able to participate in the MEDIA sub-programme once it has brought its audiovisual legislation in line wth EU law.

Albania is already a member of the European Film Promotion pan-European promotion organisation and has been represented in the Shooting Stars and Producers on the Move initiatives.