The film was shot with funding by Russia's culture ministry and initially with Pyongyang's backing
Russian documentary director Vitaly Mansky said Tuesday that eight Moscow cinemas have refused to show his acclaimed documentary shot in Pyongyang after it sparked anger in North Korea.
The director told AFP that eight cinemas controlled by Moscow city authorities have refused to air the documentary "Under the Sun" set for release on Thursday.
"Russia obeying the demands of North Korea is nonsensical," he said, adding that "the cinema community is watching this quite attentively."
The film was shot with funding by Russia's culture ministry and initially with Pyongyang's backing.
But North Korea then dropped the project -- for reasons Mansky says are unclear -- and he completed it using footage that had been filmed there covertly.
The film shows a young schoolgirl at showpiece sites in Pyongyang with classmates and parents. But the director exposes the highly staged nature of the scenes by keeping the camera rolling between takes.
Mansky is one of Russia's best-known documentary makers, whose subjects have included President Vladimir Putin and the Dalai Lama. He runs the annual ArtDocFest festival which has aired documentaries on the conflict in Ukraine including the Kiev perspective.
Russia, which shares a border with North Korea, issued high-level criticism of Mansky for making the film.
Mikhail Shvydkoi, former head of the federal cinema agency and now presidential special advisor, wrote in government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta in November that Mansky was aware those filmed in North Korea would face "inevitable punishment."
The culture ministry asked to be removed from the titles, Mansky said. Nevertheless it gave it a release certificate in May.
A North Korean website in May reportedly interviewed the girl's mother who condemned Mansky for using them in a film critical of the regime.
Mansky told AFP that he heard from his contacts that North Korea wrote to the Russian foreign ministry about the film.
In the latest debacle, Mansky said the film's distributors Drugoye Kino told him seven cinemas in the Moskino municipal chain and a city-controlled theatre called Eldar refused to show it.
"I received a letter from the distributors sent to them by Eldar cinema which says clearly that it was an order from the Moscow culture department," Mansky said via Skype.
Moscow city culture department did not confirm the order, writing in an e-mail to AFP that its chief "Alexander Kibovsky is on vacation and cannot physically sign any order."
The film is being released in 20 cinemas in Russia including at least three in Moscow according to Afisha entertainment site.