Kremlin’s 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 Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan,” a social satire of Russia based on the stories of the biblical Job and U.S. vigilante Marvin Heemeyer, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last month, it scored a Best Screenplay award and sold to more than 50 countries.
It did not sell to Russia.
The Russian film market is the eighth biggest in the world, but domestic production struggles for a market share against Hollywood, which spends as much money on a single blockbuster as the entire Russian film industry does on a year’s worth of releases.
The government has stepped up in recent years to plug the revenue gap with lavish subsidies.
But while the plan is to create a self-sufficient film industry, the worst-case scenario is the rise of propagandist cinema funded for ideological correctness, not artistic quality or commercial prospects, experts warned.
“The danger is present… though filmmakers remain free for now,” said Nina Romodanovskaya, the head of movie industry portal ProfiCinema.ru.
They may not have long left. In a telling example, “Leviathan,” which hoped to secure domestic distribution at the 25th Kinotavr Film Festival, which ran in Sochi from June 1 to 8, already risked a ban in Russia beyond the festival circuit.
The problem was that the film contains expletives, which are now prohibited under a recent law endorsed by the Culture Ministry, whose head Vladimir Medinsky is known for his ultrapatriotic and ultraconservative stance.
Medinsky stressed in May that he would not cut any slack to Zvyagintsev, who will have to edit his satirical production or not see it released at home.
He also confessed to disliking “Leviathan,” while admitting it was a “talented” movie. “Russians do not drink that much,” the minister was cited as saying.
Not Welcome at Home
The Soviet Union, despite ideological censorship, had a thriving film industry with an annual audience of some 220 million viewers in the 1980s, according to cinema news website Film.ru, and bagged several Academy Award and Cannes wins — no mean feat from behind the Iron Curtain.
That only makes all the more astonishing the industry’s annihilation after the Soviet Union’s collapse, as movie theaters fell into disrepair and people opted for pirated videocassettes. In 1997, annual ticket sales stood at 0.25 per capita, according to marketing company Nevafilm Research. In other words, only one in four Russians went to the movies at least once that year.
Pages:  [2 ] [3 ]