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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Night at the Opera -- Putin Style

Pamela Anderson found out recently what happens when you try to reach out the hand of friendship to Vladimir Putin's Russia. And if you make a film Putin doesn't like, you know what's gonna happen.

The Moscow Times reports:

It should have been Pamela Anderson's night, but veteran film director Vladimir Menshov stole the limelight at the MTV Russia Film Awards ceremony, dramatically refusing to hand over the Best Film prize to the controversial war drama "Scum," (cast pictured above) which he said "disgraced" Russia. Crowds lined Pushkin Square to catch a glimpse of the blond "Baywatch" star, who co-hosted the annual awards ceremony for Russian film with television presenter Ivan Urgant on Thursday night. Wearing a black raincoat and sunglasses despite the overcast sky, she strode briskly up the red carpet into the Pushkinsky movie theater, pausing only to say that she was "happy to be in Moscow." After stripping down to a black top and shorts, Anderson bounded onto the stage to be serenaded by a male singer who praised -- in Russian -- her "luxuriant breasts." Fortunately not provided with an interpreter, the actress playfully ruffled his chest hair and said "Privet Moskva."

The actress took a good-humored approach to the awards, which could not be said of Menshov, who directed the Oscar-winning film "Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears," and was roped in to present the Best Film award at the ceremony, which was broadcast live on MTV Russia. Taking the stage with his wife, Vera Alentova, Menshov said he hoped the award -- voted for by MTV Russia viewers -- would go to a film that they supported. After opening the envelope, he said: "I am not going to present this award to a film that disgraces my country. Let Pamela Anderson present this one." He then dropped the slip on the floor and walked away. To feeble applause from the audience, a girl in a bikini handed the award to the makers of "Scum," or "Svolochi," a film that tells the story of juvenile delinquents recruited by Soviet special forces to go on suicide missions against Nazi Germany.

Director Alexander Atanesyan attracted criticism for the film's plotline, which was initially promoted as a true story. The Federal Security Service, or FSB, even took the unusual step of issuing a statement regarding a cinematic endeavor. The agency said in the February 2006 statement that it "possessed no materials confirming the existence" of a school run by Soviet security services to train children for such missions. The agency noted that it had materials that Nazi Germany's intelligence services used children to such ends. An FSB spokesman said Friday that the agency had "already said what we think of the movie. What happened at the MTV ceremony is of no interest to us at all," the spokesman said.

Atanesyan braved a hostile reception Thursday night. "I am not ashamed of this film," he told the audience. He told reporters after the ceremony that he had "no particular" attitude toward Menshov. "He has the right to his own opinion, and he made use of that right," Atanesyan said. He went on to call the MTV award "the most objective." One of the film's young actors, Alexander Golovin, won the award for Breakthrough of the Year. Anderson, who did not have an interpreter at any point during the evening, may have thought that Menshov's throwing the winner's name on the floor was a quaint Slavic tradition. Billed as the show's co-host, the actress spent most of the evening sitting in the audience with a male companion, both of them looking slightly bewildered. She smiled exasperatedly when comedians Olga Shelest and Anton Komolov did a sketch with giant balloons stuffed up their tops, and she looked embarrassed when "Comedy Club" star Pavel Volya attempted to flirt with her in broken English. "Moscow love you, don't love Tommy Lee," he told the actress, referring to her rocker ex-husband. The president of MTV Networks International, Bill Roedy, joined Anderson to present the award for best non-Russian film, a prestigious category that included "Saw III." She read out the winner -- "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" -- but no one appeared to collect the award, which was finally taken by MTV presenter Alexander Anatolyevich. "I think we violated every rule in the book tonight," Roedy quipped. And that was before Menshov took the stage.

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