Ukrainian NGO calls on Hollywood for ‘transparency’ on Russian film funding

Ukrainian NGO calls on Hollywood for ‘transparency’ on Russian film funding

The war in Ukraine was invited to the Oscars ceremony in March 2022 in the form of a minute of silence and a statement of support. It is not known whether interventions of this nature will take place during the 95e ceremony, which will be held in Los Angeles on March 12. But the question of financing films in Hollywood with Russian money is already attracting attention, especially as it affects one of the most popular American productions. With six nominations, Top Gun: Maverickwhich offers actor Tom Cruise a sequel to the hugely successful of the 1980s, is an Oscar favorite.

In a letter sent to the Academy on March 6, Paul Grod, the president of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) – an NGO bringing together the organizations of the Ukrainian diaspora – calls for the rejection of films “with any direct or indirect investment by Russian oligarchs or other enablers of the Russian genocidal war in Ukraine.” For this same reason, the organization calls for the disqualification – totally improbable, a few days before the ceremony – of the film Top Gun: Maverick. “Unlike the original film”notes Paul Grod, the latter does not “no direct or indirect reference to Russia. It can hardly be a coincidence.”

“Influencing Hearts and Minds”

In itself, the absence of mention of Russia is hardly a convincing argument. The scenario refrains from designating by name the enemy power that the American pilots face. But the issue of Russian money is part of a long-standing debate in American production circles. Asked by The worldUWC president calls Hollywood “transparency on project financing”hoping that “whistleblowers will come forward about Russian money”. “We have seen how Russia has influenced elections in democratic countries, such as the United States in 2016, he said. Hollywood is a major target of Russian disinformation. It is a preferential platform for influencing hearts and minds around the world. »

The film Top Gun: Maverick, whose release had been delayed several times, ended up being a worldwide success. But the question of its financing remains a subject of investigation. In an article of January 3, the Los Angeles Times detailed the underside of the contract of more than 200 million dollars (190 million euros) signed in the summer of 2020 by Paramount Pictures with the production company New Republic Pictures, relating to ten films, among which Top Gun: Maverick and the saga Impossible mission. This company had to assume a quarter of the costs, at a time of serious crisis in the sector caused by the pandemic. However, among the investors in New Republic was – for a participation in the amount kept confidential – the Russian billionaire Dmitri Rybolovlev. According to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles for breach of contract, the former head of New Republic, Bradley Fischer, Dmitry Rybolovlev would have chosen to redirect his investments at the outbreak of the war in Ukraine and would have withdrawn.

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