Russia Boycotts 2023 Oscars Amid Conflict in Ukraine

The Russian Film Committee announced it would not be submitting for the Oscars’ International Feature Film award

Viktoria Miroshnichenko in Kantemir Balagov's Beanpole
Courtesy of Kino Lorber

Russia is boycotting the 2023 Academy Awards, further distancing itself from the West as the Kremlin’s war continues in Ukraine.

As first reported by the news outlet AFP, the Film Academy of Russia announced Monday that it would not be submitting a Russian film to contend in the Oscars’ Best International Feature Film category.

The decision comes as Russia’s latest effort to distance itself from the West and particularly the United States, which has continued to send aid to Ukraine since President Vladimir Putin’s controversial Feb. 24 invasion of the sovereign nation.

“The presidium of the Film Academy of Russia has decided not to nominate a national film for the Oscars award of the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2022,” the Russian academy said in a statement.

The surprise decision led to the resignation of Pavel Tchoukhraï, the head of Russia’s Oscars select committee responsible with choosing a film for competition. Citing that the Academy acted “behind his back,” Tchoukhraï’s move was in protest of the decision.

While several international film festivals, including those out of Stockholm and Glasgow, have already banned premiering Russian-backed feature films in the lead-up to awards season, previous years have seen the Film Academy of Russia’s selections fare quite well in the Oscars’ International Feature category. Its most recent Oscar nomination was for Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless” in 2017; Kantemir Balagov’s “Beanpole” and Andrei Konchalovsky’s “Dear Comrades,” which won awards at Cannes and Venice, respectively, were shortlisted in the years since.

Russia last won the Academy Award for Best International Feature in 1995 for “Burnt by the Sun” from filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov, which followed life in Russia under dictator Josef Stalin.

The choice not to participate, followed by the resignation of Pavel Tchoukhraï, is indicative of the struggles that have taken place within the Russian Oscar committee over the past decade.

For years, the committee was dominated by an old guard epitomized by Mikhalkov, whose films were chosen to represent Russia six times since 1992, with three nominations and the win for “Burnt by the Sun.” The choices spearheaded by that group tended to go to old-fashioned films, often war movies set in or around World War II.

In recent years, a newer faction within the committee has pushed for more progressive films, with Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” and “Loveless” both being submitted (and nominated) even though they were criticized by the Russian Ministry of Culture. That group on the committee helped push through entries like the Zvyagintsev films and the more recent “Beanpole” and “Unclenching the Fists.”

According to the Russian news agency Tass, director Konchalovsky (whose films have represented Russia at the Oscars three times) recently argued that the war should not be deter the country from submitting a film to the Oscars. But in August, Mikhalkov told Tass that the committee was “absolutely irrelevant,” and added, “The way I see it, choosing a film that will represent Russia in a country that, in fact, now denies the existence of Russia, is simply pointless.”

Steve Pond contributed to this report.