MINELRES: SURI Press release: An ethnographic film banned in Russia

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed Aug 10 12:28:02 2005

Original sender: Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples <press@suri.ee> 

Press release                 Tallinn, 9 August 2005
For immediate release

Tallinn, Estonia
Phone/fax:	(+372) 644 9270
E-mail: 	suri@suri.ee


The DVD version of a documentary film banned for demonstration in the Mari
El republic of Russia will be put on the market this Friday. The Mari
Song Festival was banned for demonstration this July by the Russian regional
television company GTRK Mari El. Despite the political prohibition, however,
the Maris will be able to see it on the disc.

The film was made by Aleksey Alekseyev, himself a Mari, and produced in 2005
at the Estonian company Etnomeedia. The material was filmed by Alekseyev at
a song festival in June 2004 in the Hill Mari region. The film shows the
tradition of song festivals coming into being among the Maris.

The film was produced in Estonian, Finnish and English versions. A version
with the accompanying text in the Hill Mari language was completed this
June. The English version was demonstrated at the Anthropological Film
Festival in the Estonian city of Pärnu on 5 July.

It was planned to broadcast the Mari version of the film on the television
network in the Mari republic. The author agreed in good time with Nora
Burtseva, a program host at the local television company GTRK Mari El.
However, all sort of procrastination began when the author delivered the
film. First it was said that the company had no means for recording, since
the digital equipment was broken and sent to Moscow for repairs. Next, it
was said that it turned to be impossible to synchronize the audio track with
the videoimage. The film was then sent to a local company where Alekseyev
had to pay for synchronizing the video and audio tracks himself. When no
more technical hurdles remained, Director Galina Mikhaylova forbade the
program host to broadcast the film. The pretext was that the GTRK Mari El
cannot demonstrate films produced by other studios.

The film has no political color and deals exclusively with cultural matter.
Nevertheless, it was banned. According to the director of GTRK Mari El, the
prohibition should cover any film made in another Russian region or outside

This bizarre censorship affects only the Mari territory. The previous film
made by Alekseyev that the GTRK Mari El had refused to broadcast as well,
The Holy Mountain, was shown by its sister company in the Udmurt Republic,
the GTRK Udmurtia. Both are the branches of the Moscow based state-owned
holding VGTRK. The censorship might have been introduced either by the local
management of the GTRK Mari El or by the parent company.

The new Russian federal policy in television broadcasting became apparent
some time ago when transmission in local languages was considerably cut in
many regions of the Russian Federation. This affected the Mari republic as
well. Daily programs in the Mari language transmitted for four hours before
2000 have shrunk to one and a half or two hours. Instead of the evening,
they are now broadcast in the morning when most of the viewers cannot see
them. The Mari public cannot thus receive information in the native language
and keep tied to their native culture. Moreover, archival videomaterials of
ethnographic value about the culture of the local nation are being destroyed
at the GTRK Mari El under the pretext of shortage of resources for
purchasing video cassettes. The information policy of the
government-controlled television has finally come to banning films on
non-Russian cultures.

The DVD version of The Mari Song Festival can be ordered from the
Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples via e-mail: suri@suri.ee


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