Information Centre of Finno-Ugric Peoples
Press release 09 August 2005
Press releases by the Estonian Institute for Human Rights:
AN ETHNOGRAPHIC FILM BANNED IN RUSSIA NOW AVAILABLE ON DVD
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 Russia.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org