Considering the increasingly anti-gay Russian laws that are causing a firestorm of international controversy, it’s little surprise that a planned biopic of famed composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is planning to whitewash his sexuality. While most people agree that Tchaikovsky was gay – or at least as gay you could be in 19th Century Russia – screenwriter Yuri Arabov is having none of it. As the New York Times reports, via a Russian interview, Arabov says, “It is far from a fact that Tchaikovsky was a homosexual. Only philistines think this. What philistines believe should not be shown in films.” This is despite plenty of evidence of Tchaikovsky’s attraction to men, including a biography by his brother, as well as letters by the composer himself where he talks openly about his nature. Arabov seems to think his biopic will set the record straight on a man who “is marked by rumors and suffers greatly from this.” Even if those ‘rumors’ appear to be the truth. The writer also offers the slightly odd statement that he would, “Not sign my name to a film that advertises homosexuality. Not because I don’t have a gay friend, but because this is outside the sphere of art.” However, he doesn’t say why homosexuality is outside art. It may be outside the law though, as most of the recent controversy in Russia has surrounded the introduction of laws that ban the ‘promotion’ of ‘non-traditional relationships’ to people under 18. It is possible that the film, simply titled Tchaikovsky, could be considered to break that law if it said one of Russia’s greatest historical figures was gay. Indeed, Stephen Fry said just that in a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron and the International Olympic Committee about the controversy surrounding the upcoming Sochi Olympics, that “Any statement, for example, that Tchaikovsky was gay and that his art and life reflects this sexuality and are an inspiration to other gay artists would be punishable by imprisonment.” So it seems we’re getting a straight Tchaikovsky in the upcoming 2015 movie, no matter how far from the truth that is. Perhaps now those outside Russia need to make their own biopic of the composer to set the record straight (or rather, gay).
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