Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Russian deal for Cannes winner Leviathan

Russian drama Leviathan has secured distribution in its home country, four months after it won the Best Screenplay prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

The drama, from director Andrey Zvyagintsev and producer Alexander Rodnyansky, will receive a wide release by A Company on Nov 13, in cooperation with 20th Century Fox Russia.

The film is an interpretation of the biblical story of Job, told in the context of contemporary Russia. It is set on a peninsula by the Barents Sea and tells the story of a man who struggles against a corrupt mayor who wants his piece of land.

Leviathan marks from fourth feature from Zvyagintsev following Venice Golden Lion winner The Return (2003); Cannes best actor winner The Banishment (2007); and Elena (2011), which won the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize at Cannes.

Following its world premiere at Cannes in May, Leviathan recently received its North American debut at the Toronto International Film Festival and also screened during Telluride.

Read more >>>

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Valeriya Gay Germanika: Yes And Yes - ДА И ДА (2014)

Да и Да (2014)

Director: Valeriya Gay Germanika
Writer: Aleksandr Rodionov
Stars: Vladimir Dubosarsky, Aleksandr Gorchilin, Agniya Kuznetsova

He is an incipient modern painter, she is an incipient school teacher.Their chance acquaintance sets off a passionate but short love affair. An ugly mishap leads to a break-up. But the teacher, who once saw the world through the eyes of her beloved, returned to her own world with the soul of a painter. Now she can’t get rid of her new vision, of the painter’s gift: unwelcome memories about unfulfilled love.

Да и Да (2014)

Winner of the FIPRESCI prize and "Silver George" for the Best Director.

Jury awarded its Prize to Yes and Yes for its "original and sometimes provocative presentation and exploration of contemporary generations' way of life, creation and language". Jury member Rita Di Santo added in the press conference that the film "broadened the boundaries of cinema language" and cited Jean Luc Godard's words: "Ideas separate us, but dreams unite us". Yes and Yes also received the Kommersant Weekly Prize.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Vera Glagoleva: Two Women - Две женщины (2014)

Две женщины (2014)

Director: Vera Glagoleva
Writers: Svetlana Grudovich (screenplay), Olga Pogodina (screenplay),
Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Sylvie Testud, Aleksandr Baluev

Based on a play by Russian writer Ivan Turgenev. Set in the Russian countryside at the end of the 19th century, drama turns on the wife of a rich landowner who falls in love with her son’s tutor.

Vera Glagoleva Interview:

-Why did you choose “A Month in the Country”?

— Out of a desire to show the audience in addition to the omnipresent action film format a story can be old in beautiful way, with a beautiful language. Turgenev’s language is endlessly beautiful. That’s how the play is written! The heroes experience such feelings! The most interesting thing for any actor and director is figuring out what needs to be acted out, rehearsals, and Turgenev provides enormous opportunities: delving into his work, you can open new horizons. So that is why I chose Turgenev, “A Month in Country”, and probably also playing a role here was Anatoly Efros’s production in 1977 (at the Malaya Bronnaya Theater in Moscow – ed.). That production was a major event in the theatrical world. In part because there had not yet been any film version of this work. But there were many stage productions. Strangely enough, most were in Europe, as Ivan Turgenev himself was a man of Europe. In France, England and Germany his works are always being performed. The role of Natalya Petrovna is an event of biographical importance for every actress.

— Were foreign actors brought into the film as a nod to the cosmopolitanism of the writer?

— Yes, the German tutor is played by a German (Bernd Moss – ed.), as in the 19th century it was customary to hire tutors from Europe. Natalya’s companion is a Frenchwoman. Actress Sylvie Testud beautifully reads Voltaire in French. It is quit logical. Rakitin is played by the British actor Ralph Fiennes, because in terms of his internal world, chivalry and attitude toward life his is absolutely a man of the 19th century, and this choice was now coincidence. It seemed to me that Rakitin was just this type of person.

Две женщины (2014)

— Today it is popular to change the text of the author. How did you approach the original text?

— We worked on the text. In 1909 Stanislavsky, when he was putting on this play, ruthlessly cut it down and believed that he was right to do so. We took some of the theatrics out of the text. In the play there are a lot of internal monologues which are spoken from the stage in order to show the audience the hero’s feelings. But this is not necessary for film.

— In our television series based on great literature, such as Sergey Soloviev’s “Anna Karenina”, one can see fake vases and other artificiality. You shot the picture using real film. Were you focused on accurately portraying the spirit of the time?

— It would be unethical to comment on Soloviev. There are quality television series, such as Vladimir Khtinenko’s “Dostoevsky”. But by and large everything seems rather templated. We really strived to transmit the spirit of the time and selected Glinka’s estate as the location. It is very pretty there. The museum management and department of culture of the Smolensk region were very accommodating and we received a lot of help. — How do you feel about the most recent films made based on Russian classics? Take for example Joe Wright’s “Anna Karenina” with Keira Knightley in the lead role.

— If we watched this film and it wasn’t called Anna Karenina and did not have any connection to the great novel, then I would say that it is a wonderful, interesting film with a large number of novelties from the director. It is a good entertaining film, surprising film. Everything is beautiful and shallow. You don’t worry about the heroine, you don’t pity anyone.

— Should classical literature not be made more modern?

— Why not, if you do it as talentedly as Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” with DiCaprio playing the main role. It is grandiose and amazing because it is a modern story and young people and for young people. Another example is Ralph Fiennes’ “Coriolanus”. This is also Shakespeare but in a modern presentation. There are relatively few successes – when classical literature placed in the present – because there is an obvious difference between what the heroes experienced then and now.

— Are you completely occupied with your film or do you already have plans for the future?

— I am not even thinking about it. Right now the most important thing is to complete it. The editing and sound. The post production will be rather complicated. As far as further plans are concerned, I would again like to take a look at the classics. Chekhov is fathomless. We’ll see.


Restored Ivan the Terrible by Sergei Eisenstein to Go on Release in August

The Mosfilm studio plans to release the restored historical biopic Ivan the Terrible in August, 2014.

The classical Russian cinema masterpiece directed by Sergei Eisenstein has been digitalized in high definition, the Kultura TV channel reports. The renovated film will go on general release on its 70th anniversary.

Ivan the Terrible was the last work by the legendary Sergei Eisenstein. Its first series was released in January, 1945 and gained the Stalin Award for the film director. However, the Soviet authorities did not accept the second part of the historical film, and so the general public got access to it not before 1958.

The image of Tsar Ivan IV as created by Sergey Eisenstein became nearly axiomatic in Russian cinema, whereas the technique of sharp contrast play of light and shade turned classical.


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Leviathan by Zvyagintsev Wins Main Prize of the Munich Film Festival

Leviathan directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev has won the main prize of the 32nd annual Munich Film Festival. 

The film by the Russian film director Andrey Zvyagintsev and producers Alexander Rodnyansky and Sergey Melkumov takes the ARRI/OSRAM Award.

“The attention paid by large-scale international festivals to the Russian movie is very significant to us. Zvyagintsev is a unique artist, and each and every film by him is a big day. This modern story with brilliant cast can touch both up-country viewers and fine connoisseurs of the cinematic language. Me and Sergey Melkumov as producers hope that participation of Leviathan in international film festivals will promote its long life and successful distribution”, - the film producer Alexander Rodnyansky commented on the jury’s decision.


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Alexander Kott's Test (Испытание) wins at Kinotavr

Alexander Kott’s Test was the big winner at this year’s Kinotavr Open Russian Film Festival at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The jury headed by Cannes prize-winner Andrey Zvyagintsev awarded its Grand Prix “for the realisation of the dream” and the prize for best cinematography to Kott’s love story, set against the first hydrogen bomb tests in the Kazakh Steppe at the beginning of the 50s.

In addition, Kott’s film received the Elephant Trophy from the Guild of Film Critics and Film Scholars.

Test is handled internationally by Anton Mazurov’s fledgling Russian sales company Ant!pode Sales & Distribution, which saw its other three new titles by four women directors coming away from this year’s Kinotavr with trophies and diplomas in their luggage:

Anna Melikian’s Star received the prizes for best direction and best actress (Severija Janusauskaite)

Svetlana Proskurina’s Goodbye Mom - best film music

Nigina Saifullayeva’s debut Whatayacallme - Special Diploma of the Jury “for the gentle spirit and artistic integrity”

The decisions by the Main Competition’s jury thus recognised the talent among the growing number of women directors working in Russian cinema.

Indeed, as artistic director Sitora Alieva had noted ahead of this year’s edition, a “feminisation” of Russian film was underway when eight of the Main Competition titles were by women.

Moreover, Oksana Bychkova’s Another Year picked up the best actor prize for the performance by Alexey Filimonov.

In addition, Ivan I. Tverdovsky was awarded the prize for best debut and the award from the Distributors’ Jury for his first feature Corrections Class.

Yuri Bykov’s third feature to compete in Sochi, Fool, received the prize for best screenplay and a Diploma from the Guild of Film Critics and Film Scholars “for its uncompromising artistic message”.


Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Larisa Sadilova: She - Она (2013)

Director: Larisa Sadilova 
Cast: Nilufar Faizieva, Makhsum Abdullaev, Todzhiddin Khalikov, Rakhmat Khaidarov, Natal’ia Isaeva, Iurii Kiselev

Awards :
Best feature film Window to Europe Film Festival, Vyborg, Vyborg (Russia), 2013

The opening shot of a passenger plane landing in a Moscow airport in Larisa Sadilova’s social drama She meaningfully evokes her film Nanny Required (Trebuetsia niania, 2005). In the latter, the unsettling noise of heavy aircraft traffic over a seemingly idyllic suburban estate of Russia’s new rich communicated the acute societal tensions generated by the mass migrations and profound social and economic shifts of the post-Soviet era. Nanny explored the consequences of the inequitable wealth and status redistribution for the moral state of Russian society and only cursorily touched on the accompanying mistreatment of non-Russians and their exclusion from the former Big Soviet Family. Legally defenseless and manipulatively maligned, a crew of Uzbek migrant workers in Nanny, the only ethical community in the film, inhabited a makeshift hut on the edge of the beautiful estate they helped to build. In She, Sadilova zooms in on Russia’s uneasy relationship with the nearly ten percent of its population that help power the country’s economy but whom society stereotypes as alien and threatening, and abuses for personal profit. While the new focus is on Russia’s ethnic and cultural other, in the director’s own admission, the film is as much about “them,” as it is about “us” (Khokhriakova). For Sadilova, whose spouse and one of the film’s producers, Rustam Akhadov is half-Tajik, the issue of intercultural tolerance rings particularly close to home. Hailing from the provincial Russian city of Briansk, Sadilova consistently explores wider Russian attitudes and problems, thereby bringing a refreshing outside perspective to the Moscow-centric cinema industry.

Sadilova aptly articulates her dual goal of humanizing migrants and interrogating the society’s moral standards in what she sees as “modern slave trade” (Khokhriakova) through a melodramatic love story of a seventeen-year-old Tajik girl, Maya (Nilufar Faizieva). Maya comes to Russia to escape an arranged marriage and reunite with her migrant-worker boyfriend, Khamid (Makhsum Abdullaev), but is soon abandoned there when Khamid returns to Tajikistan to marry a woman chosen for him by his parents. In true melodramatic fashion, the heroine remains silent for the major part of the plot because she speaks no Russian. The film foregrounds her perspective of a vulnerable innocent using it both to place the viewer in the migrants’ shoes, and to expose the degrading nature of the migrant slave industry that feeds multiple layers of corrupt officials and unscrupulous entrepreneurs on both sides. Sadilova’s emphasis on the truthfulness of the events that, according to her, happened in her own suburban settlement (albeit with a less optimistic ending), and her use of amateur actors, including migrants, to depict Tajik characters, add poignancy and authenticity to the story.

Despite the challenge as a director of not always being able to follow her actors’ spoken parts, Sadilova confidently gives voice to the migrants by filming nearly half of the film’s dialogue in Tajik; the voice-over Russian translation also belongs to a Tajik, producer Rustam Akhadov. The Tajik dialogue in the film, made transparent through translation, plays an important role in dispelling the myth of the migrants’ latent hostility toward Russians: Tajik characters use their native tongue not to “gossip unkindly” behind their hosts’ backs, as one of the Russian characters fears, but to talk about love, relationships, jobs, and other everyday issues, just like their Russian counterparts do. In the few cases when Tajik men switch to Tajik on purpose or when they deliberately mistranslate their Tajik comments to concerned Russians, they struggle to maintain their crumbling patriarchal authority within their small expat community. They therefore express the need for privacy in sorting out their own cultural matters, while at the same time feeling uneasy about openly enforcing their patriarchal rules in Russia’s more liberated society. The evolution of Maya’s perspective in the film reflects her metaphorical journey to consciousness of self, her native culture, and of Russia. Structurally, the film falls into two parts with roughly the first third taking place in a makeshift illegal migrant settlement outside Moscow. The director of photography Dmitrii Mishin compellingly conveys Maya’s initial perception of Moscow as a magical escape from the restrictive patriarchy back home through wide-eyed point of view shots of brightly illuminated auto tunnels and a majestic full moon shining over the city’s shimmering skyline as seen from the Moscow Ring Road. After the couple’s descent into the darkness of the migrant worker shantytown where they have to share a bunk bed in a tiny room housing three other men, Maya re-adjusts her expectations but manages to preserve her hopeful outlook. Driven, as she is, by her love for Khamid and his promise of a happy married life in Moscow, she tries to make the best of the situation. Maya’s point of view shots as she gazes curiously or pensively out of doors and windows to explore her dismal surroundings convey her rich emotional world. Akhmad Bakaev’s emotive music, incorporating native Tajik melodies and instruments, enhances the viewer’s empathy with the heroine whose feelings range from those of sadness (while observing rain falling on the shantytown’s large puddle littered with broken domestic items) to fascination with life’s promise (while watching a discarded plastic ball float in a polluted stream). The motifs of water and flowing accompany the heroine throughout the film as she carries water for the migrants’ outdoor shower and later cleans Russians’ homes. Maya’s association with water and cleansing forms a distinct counterpoint to the impure environment of Moscow’s outskirts, thus highlighting the migrants’ role in processing the city’s massive waste.