Russian Pavilion at Venice Art Biennale Scrapped as Festivals Weigh Response to Boycott Calls

Due to the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian pavilion at the upcoming Biennale arts exhibition in Venice has been scrapped, as the Venice Film Festival continues to mull its response to calls for a boycott of Russian movies at the event’s 77th edition.

Meanwhile, the Locarno Film Festival said on Monday that it will certainly be showing Russian films at its upcoming edition in August.

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Kicking off in April, the Venice Biennale, which is the multidisciplinary arts organization behind the Venice Film Festival, expressed solidarity with Russian visual artists Alexandra Sukhareva and Kirill Savchenkov and the exhibition’s curator Raimundas Malašauskas, who on Sunday announced they were pulling out of the art show on their own initiative because “this war is politically and humanly intolerable,” as Malašauskas put it in a statement.

“La Biennale expresses its complete solidarity for this noble act of courage and stands beside the motivations that have led to this decision, which dramatically epitomize the tragedy that has beset the entire population of Ukraine,” the Venice org said in a statement.

However, for the moment, Venice is not taking a stance in response to calls from the Ukrainian Film Academy to bar Russian-made or co-produced movies in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, a Biennale spokesman said on Monday.

Both Venice and Cannes are understood to be mulling their position as they wait for the European Union in Brussels to hammer out an expected directive pertaining to a pan-European cultural boycott of Russia.

The Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland, which is not a EU member, issued a clear cut statement on Monday declaring they are not planning a boycott.

“The Locarno Film Festival stands for freedom of expression and for the cinematographic art in all of its forms,” the statement reads. Therefore the Swiss fest “does not intend to boycott Russian films, since cinema is a voice for supporting diversity and creativity in all countries.”

On the other hand, the Glasgow Film Festival, which will run in March, has decided to pull the two Russian titles in its 2022 lineup: Kirill Sokolov’s “No Looking Back” and Lado Kvataniya’s “The Execution.”

The Biennale spokesman on Monday underlined that Venice last year served as the launching pad for two Ukrainian works that delve into the current war: Valentin Vasyanovych’s “Reflections,” in competition, about a Ukrainian surgeon captured by Russian military forces in the previously existing conflict zone in Eastern Ukraine; and “Rhino” (pictured above) by Oleg Sentsov, the director seized by Russian security officials after the annexation of Ukraine’s Black Sea Crimea territory in 2014, who was sentenced to 20 years behind bars on trumped up terrorism charges and finally freed in 2019.

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