Ukraine frets over "death match" movie

A movie telling the story of an amateur football "death match" 70 years ago between Nazi soldiers and Ukrainians in occupied Kiev has puzzled Ukrainian regulators who need to decide whether it can be released ahead of the European Championships.

Ukraine's State Cinema Agency was due to make a ruling on Match, a joint Russian and Ukrainian production, by April 6. But it has delayed a decision until May 1, distributor Inter Film said.

"The situation is unclear," Inter Film spokeswoman Yulia Yatsenko said. "[The movie] is in limbo."

The State Cinema Agency could not be reached for comments.

The match depicted in the film was played between a team mostly made up of Dynamo Kiev players and a German Luftwaffe (Air Force) team on August 9, 1942. The Ukrainian team won 5-3.

Hitler's Nazi forces had attacked the Soviet Union a year earlier in June 1941 and had been in control of Kiev, the capital of Soviet Ukraine, since September of that year.

The match became known as the "death match" because, according to Soviet media reports which inspired a book and several movies, the Ukrainian team defied a Nazi ultimatum to lose or die. These reports said Ukrainian players were arrested after the match and some of them executed.

Post-Soviet reports, however, indicated there had been no immediate arrests and only four players were later killed by the Nazis for reasons other than the match victory.

Yatsenko said the movie would be screened as soon as the state cultural authorities gave their permission.

Ukrainian media are linking the authorities' apparent hesitancy to national sensitivities ahead of Euro 2012, which Ukraine will host together with Poland in June.

The German national team will take part in the championships.

According to Ukrainian media reports, the movie could also upset local audiences because it depicts several Ukrainian Nazi collaborators.

But Yatsenko said the movie was not aimed at dividing people and had been well received by some Dynamo Kiev players who had attended a private screening.

"I think it is relevant on the eve of the championships as Dynamo players make up the core of Ukraine's national team," she said.


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