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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

Wednesday, Sept. 3


Although the Peter and Paul Fortress sand sculptures are more central and therefore more visible to the throngs of tourists, the 300th Anniversary Park of St. Petersburgs own collection closes today. The World Collection of Sand Sculptures that have been on display at the park reaches its final day, so fans of the classic beach activity should get there while they can.



Thursday, Sept. 4


Vladimir I. Danchenkov, Head of Baltic Customs, will be in attendance during AmChams Customs and Transportation Committee Meeting convening this afternoon at the organizations office near St. Isaacs Square at 3 p.m.



Friday, Sept. 5


Scrabble lovers and chess masters get their chance to assert their intellectual dominance at the return of the British Book Centers Board Game Evenings tonight. Held weekly on Friday nights, the event gives both board game lovers and those hoping to improve their English the chance to meet, greet and compete. Check out the centers VK page for more details.



Saturday, Sept. 6


Athletes will relish the chance to get the latest gear and try out something new at I Choose Sport, an annual event at Lenexpo forum that plans to welcome more than 30,000 people this week to the international exhibition center. Not only will visitors get to try their hand at various athletic endeavors but they will also be able to peruse equipment that can fulfill their dreams of becoming a champion.


Local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg open their season this evening at home against Lokomotiv Yarovslavl at the Ice Palace arena next to the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. See their website for a full schedule and available tickets.



Sunday, Sept. 7


Check out retro and antique cars at Fort Konstantin on Kronstadt Island in the Gulf of Finland at FORTuna, a yearly car festival that highlights the eccentricities of the Soviet automobile industry. A car race, contests and a stunt show will give visitors a chance to rev their engines.



Monday, Sept. 8


This evening marks the opening of the two-week ballet festival High Season at the Mikhailovsky Theater. Check the theaters website for more details about performances and featured dancers.



Tuesday, Sept. 9


Discuss the latest news and issues at the AmCham Hazardous Waste Management Roundtable this morning in the Tango Conference Hall of the Sokos Hotel Palace Bridge on Birzhevoy Pereulok. Starting at 9 a.m., planned topics include the Krasny Bor landfill and waste transportation between Russia and Finland.


Learn more about the citys modern architectural trends at the SPIBA Real Estate and Construction Committees meeting on the topic Contemporary Petersburg Style: What is It? Participants will get the chance to discuss whats in-demand with RBI Holdings Irina Petrova and Lubava Pryanikova, and the current state of the local real estate market. Please confirm your attendance by Sept. 5 through SPIBAs website if you wish to attend.



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