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The Matilda controversy. Religious activists threaten to burn cinemas for showing Alexey Uchitel's new movie

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I haven't watched it, but I denounce it. This sums up the scandal surrounding the new movie by Alexey Uchitel – “Matilda”.

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 It describes romantic relationship between the future emperor and a ballerina. Several months remain until the movie hits the big screen. But orthodox religious activists have already voiced an avalanche of criticism regarding “Matilda”. Arguably, not a single Russian movie of the recent years received so much attention. The director is planning to ask the Prosecutor General’s office to investigate the attacks.

Sankt-Peterburg TV channel's correspondent Tatyana Bazhenova studied the details of the Emperor’s family past and found out whether the accusations had any grounds.

A two-minute trailer to Alexey Uchitel’s new movie – “Matilda” – sparked interest among movie lovers. Exquisite costumes and decorations, an intriguing plot and solid cast. But religious activists have become seriously angry - according to them, the movie about the future emperor and his romantic relationship with ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya hurt the feelings of believers. They have found support with the deputy of State Duma – the former prosecutor of Crimea Natalya Poklonskaya.

Natalya Poklonskaya, State Duma deputy: “The main characters of the movie are the people officially canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church. Despite that, the movie plot consists of made up romantic relationships between the Emperor Nicholas the II and the ballerina of Mariinskiy Theater Matilda. Naturally, there's no sense in explaining to the authors of the movie why you cannot make fun of Christian relics, offend the people we all respect. Because they do it willingly and for a benefit.

Poklonskaya has already made inquiries with the Prosecutor General’s office. The response from St. Petersburg was that there had been no violations of any laws in the trailer. Funnily enough, the movie has not even been fully edited yet. Meaning, in essence, there is nothing to check yet. But the State Duma deputy cannot be deterred. Now she urges the law enforcement to carefully study the script, and the Cultural Ministry to investigate whether the money allocated by the Cinema Foundation was used accordingly. Those who made the movie are determined to fight back.

Alexey Uchitel, movie director: “This is the movie about the future emperor, who struggled to make a decision between his duty for the country and love. It is a serious work of art with serious expenditure, with unique historic scenes. For instance - the coronation of Nicholas the II. It has never been shown on the big screen. This movie has a lot of renowned actors, award winners, distinguished people. We had no chance of turning this into a low quality film, out of the question.

But some activists made direct threats. If the “Tsarskiy Krest” movement has only been gathering signatures against the movie, the “Hristianskoye Gosudarstvo – Svyataya Rus” organization is sending letters to film distributors. They make a radical statement- if the movie is allowed on the big screen, “cinemas will burn”. Authors of the film also promised to react to those threats. By the way, the allegations against the creators of “Matilda” do not stand any criticism. It's hard to call something officially documented in memoirs as made-up fiction.

Tatyana Bazhenova, reporter: “The whole secular St. Petersburg was speculating about the romantic affair between the future Emperor and the ballerina. Both families, those of the Emperor and of the ballerina, we're not against their relationship. The main document serving as proof of Nicholas’ love towards the young dancer - the recollections of Kschesinskaya, which were published back in the 1990s.

From Matilda’s diary: “We have been feeling more and more attracted to each other, and I've been having thoughts of moving away from my parents’ house. Holding meetings at my parents’ home became almost unthinkable. Although the young prince, being a delicate gentlemen, never said this openly - I knew that our thoughts aligned. I was so fond of Nicholas, my thoughts were only about him, about our happiness – even if it would've been short-lived.

Olga Rozanova, ballet historian: “This is a very interesting book. Very sincere. She described her suffering after they broke up. He had two broke up with her, because he was also in love with Alix. When he got married, he no longer had any extramarital affair. Nicholas was the man of very principled rules, he would've never done that as a married man. But he still devoted some attention to her”

Alexey Uchitel does not deny that his film is the work of fiction – describing the author’s vision of Nicholas the II’s romantic past. However, not a single historic fact was distorted by the script writers. The actual filming was preceded by a very thorough work with the archives. Besides, events of the film happened before Nicholas was enthroned. Alexey Uchitel is unfazed by this “black PR”

Alexey Uchitel, movie director: “This movie will definitely be in the cinemas. There's nothing that can stop it.

Both supporters and the opposition to the movie won't be able to make a definitive conclusion about it for the next six months. The premiere of Matilda is scheduled for October 25

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