Russian YouTuber sued over film review

Yevgeny Bazhenov Image copyright Yevgeny Bazhenov

A popular Russian YouTuber known for his film reviews has hit out at his country's Ministry of Culture with allegations of censorship.

In a video which has been viewed more than three million times, Yevgeny Bazhenov revealed he is currently being sued for copyright infringement by film studio Kinodanz for using too many clips in his film reviews.

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However, Mr Bazhenov alleges the real motivation is censorship and he has accused the Ministry of Culture, which funded Kinodanz's film, Beyond the Edge, of being involved.

"You, me, we all should have the right to say what we think, especially when we critique something that was filmed on our money," Mr Bazhenov said in his video.

According to news outlet Interfax, the Ministry's director of cinematography Olga Lyubimova has denied being involved in the lawsuit saying: "We provide support in producing and promoting films on the Russian market and abroad, but we do not provide support in court... these phrases and claims are 90% baseless."

Mr Bazhenov is not generally known for giving kind reviews and he made no exception for the 2018 film Beyond the Edge calling it "incredibly funny, pompous, pretentious" in a video in May last year. The lawsuit followed a few months later.

Mr Bazhenov received the lawsuit from the film studio in January 2019 but he only made it public in his video on 3 June.

Image copyright Yevgeny Bazhenov
Image caption The front page of the lawsuit

The video is now the number one on Russian YouTube's trending page and has more than 189,259 comments. The story is also the top of Russia's daily Google Trends.

Mr Bazhenov has received many messages of support on social media.

"What if we file a class suit against them, on behalf of taxpayers, for misuse of budget funds, will that work?" writes one YouTube user.

"Keep fighting, Yevgeny! If it needs to be, we will go on a rally for you. An unsanctioned one," says a comment on Russian social media site VK.

In addition prominent figures have spoken out. "Frankly speaking, the attempts to stop Yevgeny Bazhenov from posting his reviews are cowardice, incompetence and censorship," film producer Alexander Rodnyansky wrote on Instagram.

Russian TV host and media manager Tina Kandelaki said on social media site Telegram that she is ready to acquire Mr Bazhenov's YouTube channel and cover the legal costs saying Kinodanz "should read up on the Streisand effect".

The Streisand effect describes a situation where an attempt to censor or hide something only serves to draw more attention to it.