Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Internet gives Russian cinema a bigger audience

April 2012 marked the third time that the Double Dv@ Internet Film Festival, organized by Rossiyskaya Gazeta, has given first-time film directors a chance to make a name for themselves. Eight debut features by Russian directors will be available online on the Rossiyskaya Gazeta website from April 11 to 18. Each day of the festival will focus on a new film, which will appear on the site at 3 p.m. Moscow time (7 a.m., U.S. East Coast) and will be available for viewing for 48 hours. The online audience will be able to rate the films on a scale of one to 10 and share their opinions directly with the filmmakers.

According to the festival’s organizer, Rossiyskaya Gazeta film critic Valery Kichin, more than 70 directors have made their debuts in the festival over the past two years, yet many pictures have gone unnoticed.

This is not a new trend: many of the films produced during the post-Soviet era have not received the publicity they deserved. The main reason for this failure is that distributors were not sure that independent films of this kind would generate profits. As a result, few prints of the films were made and these were shown only in Moscow.

“When large distributors gave up on us, we became more audacious,” said Sergei Loba, director of “Shapito-show,” which is taking part in the competition program of Double Dv@.

“We issued 50 copies and earned more than $1 million. If we have two or three experiments of this kind, our distribution system will become more flexible. We are working on the idea of funding from individual donors, anticipating our cinema possibly finding itself in a severe crisis. Independent authors need this festival very badly in order to build up their popularity. They need to make use of any chance they have to communicate with the viewer, using any channel possible.”

This year’s Double Dv@ debuts come from directors of different generations. In addition to the competition program, which shows films made by up-and-coming directors, this year’s festival featured the debut films of such great Russian directors as Andrei Konchalovsky, Vladimir Menshov, Sergei Solovyov and Karen Shakhnazarov.

“We are making films for our viewers – there is no other way for us. The main problem for Russian cinema is currently not the viewer, but the lack of cinemas – an independent film has no chance of getting into the cinema. There are almost no cinemas willing to show non-blockbusters,” said Sergei Oldenburg-Svintsov, director of the film “Golubka,” which was shown in the competition program. “However, viewers have been changing for the better owing to the Internet. There are movie blogs, film discussions… People listen to what others have to say. Some Russian viewers told me that they saw “Golubka” after their British friends advertised the film. It turned out that they showed my film in the UK with English subtitles. I knew nothing about it.”

In the 1990s, the few movie theaters that were still operating in Russia were empty, but Russia is currently one of the key markets for many film distributors. “I guess the main reason is that people are becoming sincere and sensitive, they need someone to talk to, they are tired of the lies on TV – so, as soon as directors started making films suiting their mood, people went back to the cinema. This Internet festival is exceptionally important for development of young cinema,” said actor Alexander Korshunov.

People are hardly likely to trade the big screen for isolated viewing on their desktops, yet Internet exhibitions and live Internet shows make it clear that young Russian cinema needs to develop new platforms in order to survive. ...

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