Netflix can’t give military assistance to anyone in the Russian-Ukraine conflict or impose any economic sanctions, but the streamer has joined other Powers That Be in the entertainment industry to punish Russia for waging war. Anyone hoping for new Russian-language originals on Netflix any time soon will be disappointed. News emerged today that Netflix has told the teams working on all four of its Russian originals to hit the pause button indefinitely.
Variety was the first to break the news that Netflix was halting production on all of its Russian language original projects. There are four in total, including Anna K, based on the Leo Tolstoy novel Anna Karenina, which has already wrapped filming. Vulture was able to provide information on most of the other projects that have been stopped. One is the feel good drama Nothing Special about a young man who volunteers to work with people with disabilities. Like Anna K, Nothing Special had already wrapped filming.
According to Vulture, two of the Russia-based originals were actually halted mid-filming. One project is untitled. The other is ZATO, directed by Darya Zhuk. Zhuk is a graduate of Columbia University, whose alumni site includes a comprehensive profile of Zhuk, including a description of the upcoming series. Assuming it’s eventually finished, ZATO will be a detective drama set in 1990’s Russia right after the fall of the Soviet Union. The heroes will be a young journalist and a cop who team up to find a missing girl.
Unless you’re in Russia and/or part of one of the paused productions, then Netflix’s decision about its Russian originals might seem perfunctory and meaningless. But it’s good to remember just how much the company has been fighting to expand outside the United States. Netflix has been making big pushes in bringing more foreign language content to its platform, so much so that back in 2019, some investors were concerned the streamer’s focus on international content would hurt domestic productions. Instead, looking beyond US shores has paid off in big successes like the German-produced Dark, and the South Korean megahit no one saw coming, Squid Game. Particularly when you consider Netflix’s recent stock dive, and the word that streamers like Disney+ and HBO Max are gaining on it, telling the people making what could always be the next Squid Game to hit the brakes is a decision with weight.
The halt of Russia-based originals isn’t the only way Netflix is thumbing its nose at Putin. Over the weekend, as reported by Vulture, Netflix announced it was refusing to comply with a new Russian law stating that it include 20 propaganda channels on its service. The “Vitrina.TV law” went into effect in Russia this past Monday, with Netflix reportedly making no move to add the required channels.
As Variety notes, the entire entertainment industry seems to be joining the world’s condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Disney is putting a hold on any and all theatrical releases in Russia, and Warner Bros canceled its Russian release of The Batman. Russian filmmakers, especially those with political ties to the Kremlin, are being barred from film festivals all over the world, and Russia has been banned from the Eurovision Song Contest.