The Russian film industry is demanding changes at home in order to boost its international reputation and create demand abroad.
“Russian cinema has a dual handicap: a lack of demand from abroad and poor marketing,” said producer Yevgeny Gindilis during a round- table discussion in Moscow last month.
But Elena Romanova, the director of Fond Kino, the state body responsible for promoting Russian cinema, stressed: “We want Russian cinema to be shown to the foreign masses.”
That ambition is still a long way from being achieved. However, the fact that the film In the Fog by Sergei Loznitsa won the FIPRESCI prize from a selection of 22 films at the Cannes Film Festival at the weekend is a great promotion for Russian cinema generally. The film, which is a throwback to the era of classic Soviet cinema, will now be distributed internationally.
Apart from In the Fog and a few rare art and experimental films such as Elena or Faust which also won prizes at major international festivals and consequently enjoyed a wider distribution, Russian films are rarely seen in foreign cinemas. They tend to be confined to small screenings at Russian cultural centres, such as Pushkin House in London.
Movies that are popular in Russia are often branded unexportable, and most art and experimental films fall under the radar of the international distributors. In an attempt to remedy this situation Fond Kino has launched several initiatives.
A Russian Cinema stand was set up at the Cinema Market on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival this month which featured the latest Russian films, such as Dukhless, an adaptation of the Pushkin novel,The Queen of Spades (Pavel Lungin’s latest film), and Baba Yaga, a Franco-Belgian-Russian co-production in 3D animation.
Another initiative, Red Square Screenings, involves inviting the main players in the international film industry to attend private screenings of Russian films in Moscow from October 15-20. The screenings will be held at GUM, the department store facing Red Square.
“Competition is very fierce, which is why we need to promote Russian cinema in an outstanding way,” said Mr Gindilis, who is helping organise the screenings.
Key figures in the Russian film industry recognise that they have a lot to do at home before they can achieve their international goals. “We need tax incentives for producers and distributors,” says Ms Romanova, adding that the Russian industry receives less favourable treatment than those of countries such as Canada or France.