Russian moviegoers are seeing a heavily edited version of Rocketman. Elton John and the team behind the movie are not happy over Russia's decision to edit out all of the same sex scenes and scenes involving drugs. The Russian government is going out of its way to censor movies and music to further strengthen its conservative values agenda, which is why they cutout any scenes involving LGTBQ themes and drug use.
Elton John and the Rocketman filmmakers were initially unaware of the Russian censorship and released a statement blasting the Russian distributors who are responsible for the changes. The Russian distributor of the film, Central Partnership, said the biopic had been edited to "conform with the legislation of the Russian Federation." Whatever the case may be, John is not happy with their decision. John and Paramount released a statement, which you can read below.
"We reject in the strongest possible terms the decision to pander to local laws and censor Rocketman for the Russian market, a move we were unaware of until today. Paramount Pictures have been brave and bold partners in allowing us to create a film which is a true representation of Elton's extraordinary life, warts and all. That the local distributor has edited out certain scenes, denying the audience the opportunity to see the film as it was intended is a sad reflection of the divided world we still live in and how it can still be so cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people. We believe in building bridges and open dialogue, and will continue to push for the breaking down of barriers until all people are heard equally across the world."
The Russian Ministry of Culture, who would normally oversee something like this, did not have any involvement in the Rocketman censorship. "This is solely a decision of the company that rolls the tape," says the Ministry of Culture. By the end of the week, it was revealed that one theater in Moscow will be showing the movie uncensored, but it is unclear at this time if other theaters will follow. Rocketman opens in Russian theaters on June 6th.
Russia has been under significant pressure to keep movies, books, and the arts closer to the values of the Russian Orthodox Church. President Vladimir Putin is behind the increased pressure to keep the country under a conservative and Christian values-based agenda. Recently passed "anti-gay propaganda" laws have made it a crime to present LGTBQ themes to children under the age of 16.
Rocketman details the life of Elton John, who is openly gay. Taron Egerton stars as the musician and there are several scenes with two men kissing and partaking in drugs. It will be interesting to see if other Russian theaters go against the censorship in the next few weeks. With that being said, it will also be interesting to see if President Putin has anything to say about theaters showing the uncensored Rocketman. The Los Angeles Times was the first to report on the censorship and the response from Elton John and the filmmakers.