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Kremlins Film Funding Under Fire

With the state donating billions of rubles to the film industry in recent years, many are now questioning its motives.

Published: June 18, 2014 (Issue # 1816)



  • Director Andrei Zvyagintsev after winning for best screenplay for Leviathan in Cannes last month.
    Photo: Thibault Camus / AP

  • Films such as Stalingrad suit the Kremlins conservative ideology.
    Photo: WDSPPR

When Andrei Zvyagintsevs Leviathan, asocial satire ofRussia based onthe stories ofthe biblical Job andU.S. vigilante Marvin Heemeyer, premiered atthe Cannes Film Festival last month, it scored aBest Screenplay award andsold tomore than 50 countries.

It did not sell toRussia.

TheRussian film market is theeighth biggest inthe world, but domestic production struggles fora market share against Hollywood, which spends as much money ona single blockbuster as theentire Russian film industry does ona years worth ofreleases.

Thegovernment has stepped up inrecent years toplug therevenue gap with lavish subsidies.

But while theplan is tocreate aself-sufficient film industry, theworst-case scenario is therise ofpropagandist cinema funded forideological correctness, not artistic quality or commercial prospects, experts warned.

The danger is present though filmmakers remain free fornow, said Nina Romodanovskaya, thehead ofmovie industry portal ProfiCinema.ru.

They may not have long left. Ina telling example, Leviathan, which hoped tosecure domestic distribution atthe 25th Kinotavr Film Festival, which ran inSochi fromJune 1 to8, already risked aban inRussia beyond thefestival circuit.

Theproblem was that thefilm contains expletives, which are now prohibited under arecent law endorsed bythe Culture Ministry, whose head Vladimir Medinsky is known forhis ultrapatriotic andultraconservative stance.

Medinsky stressed inMay that he would not cut any slack toZvyagintsev, who will have toedit his satirical production or not see it released athome.

He also confessed todisliking Leviathan, while admitting it was atalented movie. Russians do not drink that much, theminister was cited as saying.

Not Welcome atHome

TheSoviet Union, despite ideological censorship, had athriving film industry with anannual audience ofsome 220 million viewers inthe 1980s, according tocinema news website Film.ru, andbagged several Academy Award andCannes wins no mean feat frombehind theIron Curtain.

That only makes all themore astonishing theindustrys annihilation after theSoviet Unions collapse, as movie theaters fell intodisrepair andpeople opted forpirated videocassettes. In1997, annual ticket sales stood at0.25 per capita, according tomarketing company Nevafilm Research. Inother words, only one infour Russians went tothe movies atleast once that year.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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