Authorized to leave Russia, director Serebrennikov admits his surprise

Hamburg (AFP) – Russian director and director Kirill Serebrennikov, who has obtained permission for a short trip to Germany, said on Friday he had “no idea” why Moscow suspended its ban on leaving the country.

“I probably behaved well,” quipped the terrible child of Russian theater during a conference at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg (north), where he is staging the play “The Black Monk” based on the fantastic novel by Anton Chekhov.

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Arrived on Monday, he specified that he would return to Russia on January 22, the evening of the premiere of his play.

“We filed an official request with the authorities asking them to be able to go to Hamburg. And they gave us permission for this project,” he continued.

“I have no idea” what prompted this decision, he said, after having suffered many rejections in the past for other projects.

The director was thus unable to attend the Cannes Film Festival in July, where his film “Petrov’s Fever” was in the running for the Palme d’Or. He had received strong support from the world of cinema from a distance.

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Serebrennikov assured that he would return home. “I have to go back because I promised,” he said in Hamburg.

Known for his daring creations, his support for LGBT + and his criticism of the authoritarianism of Vladimir Putin’s regime, the 52-year-old artist is subject to a ban on leaving Russian territory after being convicted of embezzlement.

His troubles with the law began in August 2017, when he was, in the middle of filming the film “Leto”, arrested by the police and accused of embezzlement of public funds.

For his defenders, this audacious artist, who once enjoyed the favors of power, is punished for his effrontery.

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For a year and a half, he was under house arrest, without access to the internet or the telephone. Never mind. He receives via his lawyer USB keys with videos of rehearsals for his shows, which he supervises in the same way, mounting for example an opera in Hamburg.

In June 2020, he was sentenced for embezzlement to a three-year suspended prison sentence and a ban on leaving Russia during this period. A relief, when he risked six years in prison.

And in February 2021, the Moscow City Hall ousted him from the theater, the Gogol Center, which he had directed since 2012.

Despite these difficulties, the director has no plans to leave his country.

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“This is my homeland,” he told AFP on the sidelines of the conference. “I love him very much and I have many friends in Russia. My dreams are still in Russia,” he stressed.

Despite his years of confinement, he said he always felt free.

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“Being free is part of my job. It’s impossible to work in art or theater without freedom. Otherwise it’s propaganda or something else,” he says.

“We carry our freedom within us. We do not receive it from the outside,” he said. “It has to do with how we build our lives and how we build ourselves.”

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Authorized to leave Russia, director Serebrennikov admits his surprise