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Russian Senator Fights Foreign Films 'Demonizing' Russia

Russian director Fyodor Bondarchuk's blockbuster "Stalingrad" has been hailed at home as a flagship example of a "patriotic" movie.

MOSCOW -- Grown tired of the stereotypical villainous or drunken Russian in Hollywood movies? Then Russia could soon be the place for you.

Russian Senator Batu Khasikov on August 25 proposed restricting cinema showings of "anti-Russian" films and also urged domestic filmmakers to sculpt a positive popular image of the Russian "patriot."

"It is necessary to limit access on the big screen to films that openly demonize or primitively and vulgarly dumb down everything that is connected with Russia and Russian culture," Khasikov was quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency as saying.

Khasikov, a former world champion kickboxer, stopped short of naming films that fall into this category, but was careful to note that the "film selection criteria should not stop access in Russia to foreign pictures that are actually artistic."

The same day, the Russian Culture Ministry released a list of 100 "classic" foreign films that constitute "recommended" viewing.

The list, published on a Russian cultural website affiliated with the ministry, includes such titles as Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times," Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" and James Cameron's "Titanic."

Charlie Chaplin's classic "Modern Times" is one movie that seems to have been deemed worthy of viewing by Russia's Culture Ministry.
Charlie Chaplin's classic "Modern Times" is one movie that seems to have been deemed worthy of viewing by Russia's Culture Ministry.

It was unclear if the release of the list was specifically timed to coincide with the comments by Khasikov, a member of the Committee on Science, Education, and Culture in the Federation Council, Russia's upper house of parliament.

'Patriotic Blockbusters'

Khasikov said that with a "Year Of Culture" initiative under way in Russia, it was "appropriate" for Russian filmmakers to produce patriotic movies with state backing. "At the moment the majority of our films for rent have heroes who are not examples worth imitating," he said.

As positive Russian typecasts, Khasikov pointed to the heroes of 2008 action drama "We Are From the Future," a tale of four young friends in contemporary Russia who travel back in time to World War II, and last year's "Legend No. 17," a biopic about Soviet ice-hockey legend Valery Kharlamov that was praised by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Khasikov's comments come amid a broader campaign by the Russian government to nurture patriotic pop culture.

They appear partly aimed at challenging the stereotype of the Russian movie villain that became prevalent in Western films during the Cold War -- stereotypes that to a lesser extent endure to this day. Many Russians also chafe at Hollywood portrayals of their compatriots as vodka-swilling comic relief.

Since his appointment in 2012, Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky -- who has written a series of amateur history books in which he aims to debunk Western "myths" about Russia -- has urged the country's filmmakers to produce "patriotic blockbusters."

The Culture Ministry has tightened control over government financing for films. Last year, Russian director Fyodor Bondarchuk's blockbuster "Stalingrad," which made waves internationally, was lauded at home as a flagship example of a patriotic movie.