"We reject in the strongest possible terms the decision to censor Rocketman for the Russian market, a move we were unaware of until today… That the local distributor has found it necessary to edit 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 sill live in and how it can still be so cruelly unaccepting of the love between two people", the singer tweeted on Friday.
The distributor confirmed on 31 May that the film had been edited but insisted that the changes were necessary to make the movie compliant with Russian laws. At the same time, the distributor did not specify what laws exactly it was trying to respect.
When asked whether the editing of the movie was an act of censorship, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that he had not heard about the movie, did not know what scenes had been edited out or who might have recommended to do that.
The movie is set to premier in Russia on 6 June. However, after the film was prescreened in Moscow on 30 May, media reported that the film's distributor, Central Partnership, edited out around 5-minutes worth of scenes, notably involving gay sex and drug abuse. The company also reportedly deleted the ending credits showing a photo of real Elton John and his husband, David Furnish, with a caption saying that the singer had found real love.
In 2013, a law banning the distribution of gay propaganda among children came into force in Russia. The law became known as the "gay propaganda law" and has been facing harsh criticism on the part of rights groups and LGBTQ communities. Moscow, in turn, has denied accusations of discriminating against sexual minorities and stressed that the law was targeting gay propaganda only among minors.
The film, however, remains rated "18+", or adults only, despite the fact that the scenes depicting sexual relations between men have been removed and it would not have violated the 2013 law.