Kremlinĺs 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)
When Andrei Zvyagintsevĺs ôLeviathan,ö aásocial satire ofáRussia based onáthe stories ofáthe biblical Job andáU.S. vigilante Marvin Heemeyer, premiered atáthe Cannes Film Festival last month, it scored aáBest Screenplay award andásold toámore than 50 countries.
It did not sell toáRussia.
TheáRussian film market is theáeighth biggest ináthe world, but domestic production struggles foráa market share against Hollywood, which spends as much money onáa single blockbuster as theáentire Russian film industry does onáa yearĺs worth ofáreleases.
Theágovernment has stepped up inárecent years toáplug theárevenue gap with lavish subsidies.
But while theáplan is toácreate aáself-sufficient film industry, theáworst-case scenario is theárise ofápropagandist cinema funded foráideological correctness, not artistic quality or commercial prospects, experts warned.
ôThe danger is presentů though filmmakers remain free foránow,ö said Nina Romodanovskaya, theáhead ofámovie industry portal ProfiCinema.ru.
They may not have long left. Ináa telling example, ôLeviathan,ö which hoped toásecure domestic distribution atáthe 25th Kinotavr Film Festival, which ran ináSochi fromáJune 1 toá8, already risked aában ináRussia beyond theáfestival circuit.
Theáproblem was that theáfilm contains expletives, which are now prohibited under aárecent law endorsed byáthe Culture Ministry, whose head Vladimir Medinsky is known foráhis ultrapatriotic andáultraconservative stance.
Medinsky stressed ináMay that he would not cut any slack toáZvyagintsev, who will have toáedit his satirical production or not see it released atáhome.
He also confessed toádisliking ôLeviathan,ö while admitting it was aáôtalentedö movie. ôRussians do not drink that much,ö theáminister was cited as saying.
Not Welcome atáHome
TheáSoviet Union, despite ideological censorship, had aáthriving film industry with anáannual audience ofásome 220 million viewers ináthe 1980s, according toácinema news website Film.ru, andábagged several Academy Award andáCannes winsáŚ no mean feat fromábehind theáIron Curtain.
That only makes all theámore astonishing theáindustryĺs annihilation after theáSoviet Unionĺs collapse, as movie theaters fell intoádisrepair andápeople opted forápirated videocassettes. Iná1997, annual ticket sales stood atá0.25 per capita, according toámarketing company Nevafilm Research. Ináother words, only one ináfour Russians went toáthe movies atáleast once that year.
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