HomeNewsUkrainian NGO urges Hollywood to reject films funded by Russian oligarchs

    Ukrainian NGO urges Hollywood to reject films funded by Russian oligarchs

    At last year’s Academy Awards in March 2022, a moment of silence was held to show solidarity with Ukraine, but it is not clear whether another statement of this nature will be made at this year’s ceremony, scheduled to be held in Los Angeles on March 12 However, Russia’s involvement in funding Hollywood films is already getting attention, especially since one of the biggest box office hits may have been funded with Russian money. With six nominations, Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to Tom Cruise’s 1980s hit, is an Oscar favorite.

    In a letter sent to the Academy on March 6, Paul Grod, president of the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) – an NGO assembly of all Ukrainian public organizations in diaspora – called for the Academy to “explicitly reject films with any direct or indirect investments by Russian oligarchs or other enablers of Russia’s genocidal war on Ukraine.” For this same reason, the UWC called for the eligibility of Top Gun: Maverick to be reviewed, which is not likely to happen just days before the ceremony. Grod noted that “contrary to the original film, Top Gun: Maverick makes no direct or indirect reference to Russia. This is hardly a coincidence.”

    ‘Influencing hearts and minds’

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    By itself, the fact that Russia is not mentioned is hardly a convincing argument. The script does not directly name the enemy power that the American pilots are facing. But the issue of using Russian money has been a long-standing debate in Hollywood productions. In an interview with The world, the UWC president urged Hollywood “to be transparent about the funding of projects,” hoping that “whistleblowers will come forward about the use of Russian money.” “We have seen how Russia influenced elections in democratic countries, such as the US election in 2016,” he said. “Hollywood is a major target of Russian disinformation. It’s the perfect platform to influence hearts and minds around the world.”

    The film Top Gun: Maverick, which experienced several delays, became a hit around the globe. But its source of funding remains under investigation. On January 3, 2022, the LA Times revealed the behind-the-scenes details of Paramount Pictures’ $200 million (€190 million) deal with the production company New Republic Pictures in the summer of 2020 for 10 films, including Top Gun: Maverick and the Mission: Impossible saga. The company would fund up to a quarter of the costs, at a time when the pandemic had plunged the movie industry into one of its darkest periods. One of the investors in New Republic was Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who holds a stake in the company, the amount of which remains confidential. Bradley Fischer, New Republic’s former president, filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles for breach of contract, alleging that Dmitry Rybolovlev chose to redirect his investments when war broke out in Ukraine and moved his assets.

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