Russian star Khamatova discusses dissident director | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 04.06.2017
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Russian star Khamatova discusses dissident director

The Russian actress Chulpan Khamatova told DW that she stands by director Kirill Serebrennikov following a police raid on his apartment. Authorities accuse him of misappropriating millions in state funding for a project.

In late May, as a crowd gathered out front of the Gogol Center, a young woman read a short statement for journalists. She called herself a friend of the director Kirill Serebrennikov's and said she and fellow "deeply shaken" artists from the Gogol Center - the theater he founded to showcase contemporary Russian drama - were expressing their solidarity with him. Only hours before, police had raided Serebrennikov's apartment and the theater after authorities accused him of misappropriating millions in state funding for a project.

"What's your name?" called someone from the crowd who could not see the petite woman delivering the statement.

"That was Chulpan Khamatova," another person responded. Some people laughed.

'I trust him'

Khamatova is practically an institution in Russia. The 41-year-old theater and film star is considered to be the best actress of her generation. She comes from Kazan, in the Russian republic of Tatarstan. Ten years ago, Khamatova lived in Germany, where she acted in experimental films such as "Tuvalu," but also in such box offices hits as "Good Bye, Lenin!" After her stint in Germany, she returned to Russia and has collected accolades for her acting ever since. A mother of three, Khamatova works at the internationally renowned Sovremennik Theatre in Moscow and helps run the Gift of Life foundation, which she co-founded to support children with disabilities.

"Kirill is my friend; I trust him with my life," Khamatova has told DW's Zhanna Nemtsova. "I was certain that Kirill is not a thief," she added, calling Serebrennikov a "decent man and an inimitable artist."

Serebrennikov, whose films and plays have also enjoyed success outside of Russia, was interrogated by the police and released soon after the raids in May. He denies all of the allegations against his company and has called the incident "an outrageous injustice." Serebrennikov is one of the few famous artists in Russia who still regularly criticize the government and society. His latest film, 2016's "The Student," is a black comedy about a young religious fanatic in contemporary Russia.

 Zhanna Nemtsova und Schauspielerin Chulpan Khamatova (DW)

Khamatova (right) discussed the director in an interview with DW's Nemtsova

Business with Putin

Khamatova's implied criticism of Russia's justice system is an unusual step for an actress who usually stays out of politics. "I am very afraid of judging," she said. "I almost never do anything like that. But, if something happens like what happened on May 23, it comes across as a political statement."

In fact, Khamatova's most recent foray into politics was a favor to President Vladimir Putin during his re-election campaign. Like many other celebrities, she shot a commercial for Russia's long-term leader. Putin has always supported her foundation for children, she said in 30-second video.

The ad drew criticism from Putin's opponents, especially on social media. Later, Khamatova said no one had forced her to shoot the ad and that she would shoot the ad again if another hospital were built Russia. Khamatova's views on the protest movement against Putin at the time also caused a stir. In an interview, she said Russia would be better off with a government comparable to North Korea's than with a revolution.

Disagreements with Putin 

Khamatova has also turned down many offers to support Putin. In March 2014, she refused to sign a petition backing Putin's bid to take Crimea from Ukraine. "I do not understand who is right or who is wrong there," she told DW.

To no avail, Khamatova has fought a 2013 law that prevents Americans from adopting Russian children. "That is big politics," she said. "And, in big politics, politicians are not really interested in people."

When asked how far she would go to make compromises with the government, Khamatova said: "The boundary is my conscience."

Nemtsova.Interview is the name of a weekly television show hosted by the Russian journalist Zhanna Nemtsova. The critical talk show focuses on interviews with leading European, Russian and US politicians, scholars and artists who have a distinct opinion on Russia.

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