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article imageFrench actors protest as Russian director's house arrest extended

By Rana MOUSSAOUI (AFP)     Jul 18, 2018 in World

Actors protested at one of the world's biggest theatre festivals in support of Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov as judges in Moscow on Wednesday extended his 11-month-long house arrest.

Artists wearing "Free Kirill" T-shirts chanted his name at the Avignon festival in France where organisers called on Moscow to free the renowned theatre star.

But judges extended his house arrest until August 22 -- exactly a year after his arrest on embezzlement charges -- the TASS state news agency reported.

Serebrennikov, 48, the enfant terrible of the Russian stage, has revolutionised the Moscow scene with radical new plays and by reinventing classics.

But he fell foul of conservatives for his daring ballet about legendary gay dancer Rudolph Nureyev at the Bolshoi where he used a famous full-front nude of the icon by the photographer Richard Avedon.

Nikita Mikhalkov, a powerful Oscar-winning film director with close Kremlin links, said Serebrennikov should not have been allowed "to hang Nureyev's cock" in the country's most important theatre.

Serebrennikov was later charged with defrauding the state of more than $2.1 million (1.8 millon euros) in arts funding, a claim his supporters say is "absurd".

His house arrest meant the director was unable to attend the Cannes film festival in May for the premiere of his latest film, "Leto", a biopic of the Soviet-Korean rock legend Viktor Tsoi, which got rave reviews from critics.

Serebrennikov was still shooting the film when he was first detained, and he was also working on a play for Avignon, which organisers hope will be staged at the festival next year.

- 'Rule of fear' -

"Kirill Serebrennikov really must a dangerous man for a huge country with the second biggest army in the world to have to lock him up," the French playwright Gerty Dambury told protesters at Avignon on Tuesday, in an ironic stab at the Kremlin.

The Gogol Centre theatre in Moscow, which the director heads, thanked protestors for their support. "It's a strange world," it wrote on Facebook Tuesday. "Tomorrow he has a court hearing here while in Avignon there's a day of hommage to Kirill Serebrennikov."

"Men from the FSB (Russian security service) have been camped outside his door for near a year... and he was not allowed a last visit to his mother who died three months ago," Guadeloupe-born Dambury added.

She compared the director to the late Chinese dissident Ren Hang -- whose nude photographic portraits outraged the authorities -- and on whom the new play Serebrennikov is preparing for Avignon will be based.

"Kirill has been harassed by the church and state and by the official press in Russia... he has had death threats," Dambury said.

"But Kirill's world, just like Ren Hang's, cannot be touched by the rule by fear."

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