Directed by Alexei Uchitel, Matilda tells the story of the affair between the heir to the Russian throne, Nikolai Romanov, and the ballerina of the Imperial Theatre, Matilda Kshesinskaya. The movie is set in the years from the spawning of their affair to the coronation of the crown prince. While the movie is set to be released on October 25, the controversy surrounding the movie and the protests from the conservatives of Russia might result in a possible ban on the movie. A radical group called the Christian State-Holy Rus wrote letters in January to theatre groups, threatening to burn them down if Matilda was screened in them.
The threatening letters were followed by a series of arson attacks. A molotov cocktail was tossed in the studio that Uchitel worked in. There were reports of flyers reading ‘Burn for Matilda’ all over the place when a few cars outside Uchitel’s lawyer’s office were torched. Another incident took place in Yekaterinburg when two men tried to drive a truck loaded with gas canisters into the front door of the Cosmos movie theatre. The attempt was foiled but it was caught on camera, resulting in the arrest of the men. Yekaterinburg was a significant incident because Nikolai and his family were killed there in 1918.
Two of Russia’s biggest movie chains have denied the screening of the movie. A film festival in Siberia’s Chita has denied the entry of Matilda in the event, citing concerns for the safety of its audience. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a statement that while he was not banning the movie, he was urging everyone to have peaceful dialogue within the limits of the law. The rally against the movie is led by Russian lawmaker Natalia Poklonskaya, a member of Putin’s United Russia party. She called for the ban on Matilda and demanded Uchitel’s prosecution for hurting religious sentiments. She has also refused to see the movie, despite Uchitel’s offerings for a private screening of Matilda.