Russia: Censorship of Elton John biopic an insult for the rights of LGBTI people

Censorship of the Russian version of the Elton John biopic ‘Rocketman’ is yet another example of the ‘gay propaganda law’ undercutting freedom of expression and encouraging homophobia in Russia, Amnesty International said today.

“This homophobic censorship of a film about Elton John is as ridiculous as it is insulting for LGBTI people and anyone in the country who stands for dignity and non-discrimination. It is a sad irony that Sir Elton John himself promised back in 2015 that he would try to positively influence Vladimir Putin’s gay rights attitude,” said Natalia Zviagina, Director of Amnesty International’s Representative Office in Russia.

This homophobic censorship of a film about Elton John is as ridiculous as it is insulting for LGBTI people and anyone in the country who stands for dignity and non-discrimination
Natalia Zviagina, Director of Amnesty International's Representative Office in Russia

“By censoring any expression of affection between two human beings of the same sex, this mutilated version of the film insults and dehumanizes same-sex relationships. The distributors should take immediate steps to restore all deleted scenes of the movie.”

Such severe edits also beg the question as to whether the Russian film distributor has gone beyond what is required even under the homophobic and unduly restrictive legislation in Russia. The movie is rated ‘18+’ so no minor would be admitted to the cinema to watch it and therefore there is no risk of being ‘exposed’ to ‘gay propaganda’.

Under the so-called “gay propaganda law” passed in 2013, any public display of homosexuality is effectively prohibited in Russia, ostensibly to protect minors against the ‘harm’ which positive information about “non-traditional sexual relations” may cause then. However, no such restrictions apply to adults.

Background

The Elton John biopic ‘Rocketman’ is scheduled to open in Russia on 6 June, but the first prescreening took place in Moscow on Thursday night. According to film critics who had a chance to watch the movie abroad, all scenes depicting kisses or sexual encounters between men were deleted, as were the scenes of drug consumption. The closing credits depicting Elton John and his husband David Furnish, with a caption saying that musician ended up meeting his real love, were deleted as well.