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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

Tuesday, Jan. 27


Observe the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekhov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekhov's books will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.





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