Kantemir Balagov's "Closeness" Enjoys Raves at Cannes On May 24th, 2017, the Un Certain Regard sidebar of the Cannes Film Festival hosted the world premiere of Kantemir Balagov's "Closeness." Next day, a press conference was held at the Russian Pavilion managed by ROSKINO. The 25-year-old director, a student of Alexander Sokurov, presented his film to Russian and international media alongside his actresses Darya Zhovner and Olga Dragunova. ROSKINO CEO Katya Mtsitouridze opened the conference by congratulating the filmmakers on the film's rapturous reception, and noted that "Closeness" was, in fact, the second film Balagov had unveiled at the Russian Pavilion."Two years ago, Kantemir came here as a Global Russians program participant, in the company of four other students from Alexander Sokurov's workshop at Kabardino-Balkarian State University. He is our pride and joy––and, in a sense, our discovery, too! I'm so happy to see the substantial results of our work and the work of this wonderful director and his mentor. I hope that in the future, new stars in the firmament of filmmaking will be lit not just in Moscow and Petersburg but all over Russia as well." Katya Mtsitouridze also encouraged the journalists to support the idea of letting Alexander Sokurov teach across all of Russia, because teaching is a significant facet of his talent: "Kantemir is not the only student of his who has made it big––four exceptionally strong debuts by his classmates are currently in the works, and I hope they'll blow up soon enough at other festivals." The CEO also emphasized that the three movies at least partially financed by Russia and selected for the two most prestigious Cannes sections, the Official Competition and Un Certain Regard ("Loveless," "A Gentle Creature," "Closeness"), had already been purchased by the European distribution giant Wild Bunch. It is further proof of the resounding success of "Closeness," since many directors spend their entire lives trying to achieve this level of recognition. Mtsitouridze said she hoped Wild Bunch's involvement would open up wider commercial avenues for the Russian films and strengthen their potential in wide release.Kantemir Balagov, director: "I'm really grateful to Katya Mtsitouridze and ROSKINO for the attention they pay emerging filmmakers and for putting this press conference together; we do appreciate it. I would also like to thank my mentor Alexander Sokurov for everything he has given us over the years of studies.My film is based on actual events and memories. It was important for me to show the relationships between people and nations, because Russia is a multiethnic state, and whether you like it or not, this multiethnic makeup sometimes breeds conflict.The title is not incidental. It's "closeness" in the broadest sense. First of all, it's the closeness of oneself to oneself, in which there's no room left for anyone else to get "closer." It's also the closed-mindedness of tradition and closed circuits of different mindsets, or broader still, the close range at which two nations have to coexist but can't, which leads, inevitably, to strife." Set in 1998 in the North Caucasian city of Nalchik, "Closeness" follows a local Jewish family whose son is kidnapped, along with his fiancée, on the day of their engagement. However, Kantemir Balagov insists that it wasn't his intention "to overplay the Jewish card." "The plot is loosely based on a true story: Kabardinians and Balkarians were never abducted, whereas Jews were the most frequent victims, the most defenseless minority." The filmmaker also stressed that his interests mostly lay in the family conflict, rather than in the abduction narrative. On the subject of Alexander Sokurov's influence, Balagov noted that the seasoned teacher expressly forbade his students from watching his work and urged them to develop a voice of their own. Though he did serve as an artistic consultant for the movie and helped greatly during pre- and post-production, Sokurov nonetheless "never threw his weight around." Apart from a small sum of money from the Saint Petersburg Cultural Committee, the film received no state funding and was mostly sponsored by the non-profit foundation "An Example of Intonation" run by Sokurov himself. The two main actresses, Darya Zhovner and Olga Dragunova, thanked their director for bringing them along and shared some insights into their characters. Darya Zhovner, actress:"When I saw the movie yesterday I realized how much my character and I had in common. At times, I found it very hard to accept what she went through and I had to force myself into certain situations: for instance, I couldn't stomach the fact that in the 21st century a girl could be made to marry a man she didn't love, so it was difficult for me to act in that scene." Olga Dragunova, actress: "My character is nothing like me, but I tried my best to justify her behavior because I had to understand what motivated her. Selfishness sometimes turns excessive love between parents and children into the opposite of love. Love has to be given freely, but we often demand it.I'm very happy with what we achieved. For a long time after the shooting period I played the events over in my head and thought some scenes had to be handled differently. But when I saw the final cut I understood that the director was right. Some episodes are left ambiguous on purpose, but it's exactly what makes our movie so complex and thought-provoking." "It is, indeed, a film that stays with you," added Katya Mtsitouridze. "When I revisited it I saw some scenes from a different angle and figured out why they were needed and what context they were put in. A movie that stays with you is, by definition, a good one." Un Certain Regard awards will be announced on May 27th. The jury comprised of five industry professionals is presided over by the Hollywood superstar Uma Thurman. Additional info:Jane KovalenkoROSKINO Press Office firstname.lastname@example.org+7 916 131 10 00
Investor, AMEDIA and Warner Music Owner, Billionaire Leonard Blavatnik and Hollywood Producer/Director Brett Ratner Gave Speeches at Russian Pavilion For the tenth year in a row, the Russian Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival has gathered together some true professionals of the film industry from all around the world. On May 23rd, 2017, the venue hosted a presentation of the new project from Mars Media and AMEDIA Production, "T-34," produced, among others, by Leonard Blavatnik, billionaire investor and owner of AMEDIA and Warner Music. The showcase caused such a stir in the international film community that Hollywood superproducer and director Brett Ratner found an opening, in between meetings, in his extremely busy schedule. His sudden appearance and the questions he asked of the team behind the project constituted, undeniably, the highlight of the presentation.Ratner's directing credits include the Rush Hour trilogy, X-Men: The Last Stand, and a string of other box-office smashes totaling over $2 billion in worldwide grosses. He has also achieved renown as a producer with The Revenant, Horrible Bosses, War Dogs, Black Mass etc. Showing genuine interest in the war-themed adventure actioneer "T-34" produced by Ruben Dishdishyan, Leonard Blavatnik, and Julia Ivanova, Ratner was slightly taken aback by the film's price tag: "Wait a minute, you're saying you had a 600-million budget?! 600? "Wonder Woman" cost 200 million, but in Russia a 600-million movie is considered inexpensive?! Am I missing something?" When the famed filmmaker realized they meant rubles rather than dollars, and at the current exchange rate the budget of "T-43" was just under $10 million, he added knowingly, "Oooh, rubles!""T-34" is a war-themed adventure actioneer about the confrontation between two tank experts, the German captain Jager and lieutenant Ivushkin, who makes a daring escape from German captivity. Leonard Blavatnik, Head of the Access Industries holding company that owns, among its other assets, Warner Music Group, Amedia, and the British subsidiary of Mel Gibson's distribution company Icon, whose catalogue contains over 500 titles (including Driving Miss Daisy, Dances with Wolves, The Passion of the Christ, and other classics): "Cinema is more than business to me. Let's just say that there are more lucrative areas––and yet, I'm happy to spend money on creative endeavors. First and foremost, I'm invested in supporting talented young people, and I do it in various spheres, from music to film to TV, and in different countries. I believe that Russian filmmakers are better at war movies than their Hollywood peers. There's plenty of talent to go around here. For me, "T-34" is more than a perfectly conceived adventure flick. My Grandfather was a WWII veteran, and that great victory is part of our family lore. I'm very picky about what I choose to finance, and this film was selected out of many offers––for personal reasons, among others. Of course, other factors were taken into account as well, such as: the best young actors, a first-rate crew, and the stellar résumé of our partners, Mars Media and Ruben Dishdishyan in particular." The first batch of visual materials meant to demonstrate the scope of the production was prepared expressly for the Russian Pavilion presentation. The story of "T-34" begins in 1941, in the heat of the Volokolamsk battle, when Ivushkin, a lieutenant fresh out of the military academy, stands up alone against a dozen of German tanks led by the tank expert Jager. Fortune, as they say, favors the bold: Ivushkin does eliminate the enemy squadron, but ends up captured by the Germans. In 1944, in the Ohrdruf training area, the captive Ivushkin hatches an audacious escape plan, to ride once more the legendary T-34 and to dare Jager, the German Panthers, and his own fate. The film is written and directed by Aleksey Sidorov, known for the cult-favorite TV show "Brigada" and the "Shadowboxing" trilogy. Ruben Dishdishyan, General Producer at Mars Media (Shadowboxing, Chic, Mermaid, The Star, Soaring, The Earthquake etc.):"We have now made five movies with Aleksey Sidorov, and I count him among the most gifted writers and directors in the nation. Between Aleksey's first pitch and the first day of shooting, three years had elapsed. All this time, we kept on perfecting the screenplay. So far, we're about halfway through the shooting period. Our job was to make our movie as accessible as possible. It had to be spirited, modern, and geared toward different demographics; both a visual feast for the younger audiences who are used to the best Hollywood has to offer, and an exciting character-driven narrative that would appeal to the older generation. We'll do everything in our power to make our movie the cinematic event of the season, and I think it's got what it takes! The audiences are in for a "Fast & Furious" with tanks!" The film's cast boasts a constellation of young Russian actors made famous by their recent roles: Aleksandr Petrov, Irina Starshenbaum, Petr Skvortsov, Semen Treskunov, and Anton Bogdanov. One of the main characters is portrayed by Viktor Dobronravov, while the antagonist, Jager, is played by the German actor Vinzenz Kiefer, whom you may remember as the ringleader of the hackers in "Jason Bourne." The Cannes presentation is a pivotal point in the film's promotion in the international arena. The filmmakers hope it will be as successful as was Stalingrad, another large-scale WWII film that told a powerful and emotional story. Julia Ivanova, Mars Media CEO:"The budget is currently estimated at 500 million rubles (we've managed to cut it down by about 50 million). Last year we locked down financing from the Cinema Fund, and we're pitching again this year in hopes of getting additional funding. Russian audiences usually show up to war-themed movies in droves, and our project is a real standout." The movie is currently shooting. The first part was filmed in the outskirts of Moscow in late February–March; then the crew moved on to the Czech Republic. Some scenes will be shot in and around Moscow in June. "T-34" is expected to be released in Russia in 2018. Leonard Blavatnik:"I'm really impressed by how our presentation went and how well the Russian Pavilion was organized by ROSKINO and personally Katya Mtsitouridze. I think what we see here is a certain level of excitement being generated and sustained––an excitement without which it'd be very hard to cross over to the international market." Additional info:Jane KovalenkoROSKINO Press Office email@example.com+7 916 131 10 00
Global Russians Presentation at Russian Pavilion at Cannes Global Russians Presentation at Russian Pavilion at CannesOn May 22nd, 2017, as part of the 70th Festival de Cannes and Marché Du Film market, the Russian Pavilion hosted a presentation of the annual short-film anthology Global Russians. The Pavilion visitors saw five selections: Gala Shiyan's "Amnesia"; Olga Dibtseva's "Good Day"; Petr Antokhin's "Breaking Up with Jenny"; Lado Kvataniya's "The First"; and Daria Vlasova's "Milk."The program had been handpicked by an expert jury comprising film critics Vasiliy Koretsky (Colta.ru, Vogue), Katya Mtsitouridze (Roskino, Channel 1), and Denis Ruzaev (Lenta.ru, TimeOut.ru).The Global Russians contest invites submissions from students and alumni of film schools, both Russian and international. This year, over 170 applications had been received, and the final roster included works by both aspiring filmmakers fresh out of film school, and emerging talent already known in the industry. In terms of production budget, the program picks range from inexpensive original skits to price tags considered fairly high for a short subject.All five Global Russians shorts, thanks to Roskino, will go on to represent their country in the Cannes sidebar Short Film Corner, where industry professionals will evaluate them. Katya Mtsitouridze, ROSKINO CEO:"We put together our annual Global Russians program in hopes of launching new, exciting, and envelope-pushing careers. The fact that our alumnus, Kantemir Balagov, is now unveiling his debut feature "Closeness" in the prestigious Un Certain Regard program, speaks to the success of our mission. Two years ago, Kantemir's short "Me First" was a Global Russians finalist, which gave him the opportunity to go to Cannes with other students from Alexander Sokurov's workshop at the Kabardino-Balkaria State University. We are delighted to see his unqualified triumph. This year, the jury's decisions were mostly unanimous. The weak entries were quickly dismissed, so we had to choose from the 20 most promising offers. As it stands, the final five show great range in style and tone, and their authors, I'm sure, won't take long to break through with their first features."Vasiliy Koretsky, film critic, Colta.ru and Vogue Russia:"There are a few simple criteria we stuck to in evaluating the submissions. The first one is watchability. Young filmmakers often rely on text too heavily. In an international program, the visuals should be more pronounced than the story itself. The story, meanwhile, should be easy to read in the subtitles or, ideally, told with no verbal crutches whatsoever. Second of all, we singled out the genre works. Genre movies are not exactly thriving in Russia, although we've made some progress in comedy. What's important here is that comedy have crossover potential, not tied to the specifics of the Russian context. Third of all, the running time: we made it a point to intersperse the lengthier films in the program with brief skits. And finally, we assessed the professional level of the authors and their work."Denis Ruzaev, film critic, Lenta.ru and TimeOut.ru:"Filmmakers of today often try to squeeze all they know about life, people, and their country into a 15-20-min. running time (30 at best). Of course, it's an impossible task, and few directors accomplish that even in their features. As we sifted through the submissions, we mostly looked for concise, witty, and consistent stories told with coherence and elegance."Global Russians Program 2017«Amnesia»Directed by Gala ShiyanStarring Dmitry Erokhin, Alexander Levitsky, Ivan Kozin, Sergei Sychugov, Maxim VintovkinA one-minute sketch of the contemporary poetry scene, "Amnesia" is the program's most laconic selection, in which a nervous poet dares to present his work to his colleagues for the first time, and forgets his own stanzas under pressure.The film was born out of improvisation. At a poetry reading, Dmitry Erokhin (John Vain) added to his famous verses a "recently written" poem entitled "Amnesia," which inspired the filmmaker, Gala Shiyan, who now says, "What happened there made me think about our perception of contemporary art, and the tricky situations it creates––for example, when a green EXIT sign on the wall may or may not be an element of the exhibit."The movie was filmed quickly, with non-professional actors playing themselves. We get to see a real poetry reading "At Vain's," where he and other poets play along following the director's lead.Before she enrolled in Yuri Grymov's class at Wordshop Academy, Gala Shiyan had already earned two degrees, in engineering and philosophy. While in school for the latter, she started making film études and shorts. Her résumé now lists a dozen independently produced films, including "One on One," "Triangles," "The Silver Medal" etc. "To be perfectly honest, I thought my film would only be understood by the people involved in its production, i.e. the poets themselves. I'm as amazed that it has garnered so much attention as I am honored to present it here. Our whole production budget was 200 rubles to rent a lavalier mic and some small change for parking. My films have traveled to international festivals before, but never on this scale, obviously. I realize full well that I'm as lucky as my characters, and it just takes my breath away," admits the director.Vasiliy Koretsky:"We have considered several super-short miniatures, and "Amnesia" is my personal favorite. Once you've had enough of turgid arthouse fare, such a brisk and funny story truly feels like a breath of fresh air."«Good Day»Directed and produced by Olga DibtsevaStarring Alexander Pal, Olga Khokhlova, Vasiliy Kortukov, Galina Averyanova, Andrei Kharybin, Pavel Serdyuk"Good Day" is actress Olga Dibtseva's directorial debut. It is her first completed assignment for the Filmmaking preparatory course at the Moscow Film School.This tersely humorous project, now with a bit of gallows humor, tells the simple story of a delivery boy who, on an errand for a married couple, witnesses a series of accidental deaths. The delivery boy is played by Alexander Pal in what the selection committee believes to be his career-best performance."I'm so happy to be here, and I would like to thank Roskino for this opportunity, and everyone else who helped this movie succeed. "Good Day" is my directorial debut. I'm an actress, but I've always wanted to direct. All the accomplished filmmakers tell you to just do it, because making a movie has never been easier. So, I wrote the script and assembled crew and cast who were all my friends willing to work for free. My own apartment was our set, and I borrowed a camera from a colleague, so the entire budget came out to about 50,000 rubles. The hardest part was bringing all the extremely busy actors to the set for two days, and the biggest chunk of the budget was eaten up by the logistics of it all. Of course, Alexander Pal is the crown jewel of the movie. I didn't even think he'd be interested in a student project, but he liked the screenplay and said yes right away," says the director.Olga Dibtseva is about to graduate from Boris Khlebnikov and Aleksey Popogrebskiy's workshop at the Moscow Film School. She is currently shooting her final project, a comedy about a female doctor who befriends a lady from the wealthy suburbs of Moscow.Vasiliy Koretsky: "We all loved this film, and chose it unanimously! It's a simple story that can be comprehended with no words at all, although the funny dialogue is an added bonus. It's an actors' movie, too, and Pal's participation is symbolic here: it's a new Russian comedy that I feel was somewhat influenced by Zhora Kryzhovnikov." «Breaking Up with Jenny»Directed by Petr AntokhinProduced by Nodar Dzhincharadze, Petr AntokhinStarring Dustin Chaviano"Breaking Up with Jenny" is the program's sole English-language title. According to Petr Antokhin, "the language is as instrumental here as are lighting, lenses, music, and special effects. This story simply sounds more organic when told in English." Overall, the film doesn't feel Russian at all, since the images, sets, and props all look distinctly Western.The film's main, and only, character is a guy named Gus, who is having a very special morning: he's marrying Rachel in a couple of hours. The one minor thing he has to take care of is break up with Jenny. Jenny is the name of his car, but this information is withheld for a while as Gus, in an internal monologue, struggles to convince himself he's making the right choice and fends off an avalanche of texts from his domineering bride. A truly masculine tale!This is a live-action debut for Petr Antokhin, a graduate of the Contemporary Art Institute (V.D. Rubinchik's workshop). Previously, he has collaborated with other filmmakers on the TV show "Love Is Not What It Seems.""I decided to start with the most doable thing––a screenplay I could manage within my budget. For a couple of months, I would meet my filmmaker friends and gush on and on about this guy who has a very special relationship with his car. First I "infected" my co-producer Nodar Dzhincharadze, then my cameraman Sergey Pavlenko and unit production manager Igor Kapustin. At some point, the film took on a life of its own. Frankly speaking, I wasn't even thinking about my movie's prospects. I just wanted to see my idea come to life. For the opportunity to present it here today, I'd like to thank Nodar, the whole crew, and our actor Dustin Chaviano," says Petr Antokhin.Dustin Chaviano, the film's star, is also a newcomer. The director says he auditioned his actors in a cafe and understood right away that Dustin was perfect for this role. Chaviano, meanwhile, threatened to go away on a long trip around the world if he were not cast.Vasiliy Koretsky: "The story of a young man who ditches his bride for a car made quite an impression on me. Perhaps it won't look so refreshing in the global context as it did among Russian films that repeat the same mistakes over and over again, and dash their own hopes for festival recognition. Anyway, the movie is an interesting one, funny and high-quality." «The First»Directed by Lado Kvataniya Produced by Ekaterina Kononenko Starring Maria Krylova, Vladimir VerevochkinThe Global Russians' longest and most epic selection is directed by Lado Kvataniya, already an established name in the industry. He graduated from the Russian Academy of Theater Arts with a degree in acting and studied screenwriting under John Truby; he also went to New York Film Academy, where Paul Brown served as his supervisor. A Hype Productions employee and Ilya Naishuller's frequent collaborator, Kvataniya has made several music videos for his band Biting Elbows and starred in "Hardcore Henry."The short is set in the Soviet Union in 1960. A capsule with an astronaut inside crash-lands in the woods, soon to be found by a lonely village girl. The astronaut doesn't know yet that his biggest test still lies ahead.Andrei Koroteev's script is based on a British article that throws the accepted historical narrative into question and doubts whether Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space. Criticized in some quarters as a Cold War relic, the article has nevertheless inspired this cinematic fantasia, in which the director speculates about how his parents could have met each other."Thank you, ROSKINO, for giving me the opportunity to be at this splendid event. I had a spiritual experience yesterday when I shook Park Chan-wook's hand, so I'm ecstatic right now," says Lado Kvataniya. "In my film, I tried to articulate a certain interpretation of being. Different philosophies and religious movements have different cosmologies, and they all ponder the same question: who is our creator, our father? The man whom we don't get to see in the movie––the invisible narrator, the protagonists' son––interprets his own origins. I tried to tell a non-hermetic tale, accessible to anyone in the world."Vasiliy Koretsky:"It's an intriguing genre piece of the highest production values. Not that I only appreciate big-budget filmmaking and spurn little indies––the Cannes festival has seen it all. Besides, the movie engages with the space theme ironically, without the customary pompousness. As far as the theme itself is concerned, the program had to have, shall we say, a Russian doll: something that "speaks" Russian without an accent."«Milk»Directed by Daria Vlasova Produced by Yanna BuryakStarring Vitaliy Khodin, Maria Bolonkina, Gleb Orlov, Yaroslava Bazaeva, Igor YasulovichAnother relatively big-budget selection (two million rubles), which has already been to a prestigious international festival: it premiered at the 67th Berlinale, in the Short Films Generation 14 Plus sidebar.Made by a VGIK alumna, Daria Vlasova, "Milk" thrusts the viewer into a downright bizarre situation. Imagine a 14th-floor apartment in a major city. A perfect family: mother, father, daughter, and son. One fine morning, a live cow is found in their kitchen. The family members get used to it soon, except for the grandfather (Yasulovich) who's hell-bent on killing the animal.The filmmaker told us about the inception of her idea:"About two years ago, I had this vision of a cow in the kitchen, and my imagination filled in the blanks. When I set out to do something funny, I use surreal, absurdist imagery. The movie's aesthetic had to be as antiseptic and ad-like as possible. I tried to explore the issues of contemporary society using a universal visual language: that's why it's light on dialogue. A big thank-you goes to my producer Yanna Buryak, who gave me a chance to create without thinking about the budget."It wasn't easy to find a 14th-floor apartment where a cow would be welcome: about 100 people had refused to let the producers use their kitchen, and those few who were willing demanded an amount of money enough to rent a soundstage. A special set was built for the "main character," a cow named Murka."During preproduction, we brainstormed all the possible scenarios of our cow's behavior, and built the sets and planned our schedule accordingly. We had anticipated every conceivable disruption. But Murka is an experienced actor, so everything went smoothly as she wasn't afraid of either the lights or the people around her," stressed Daria.Denis Ruzaev:"It's a clever futuristic joke. The cow provokes all kinds of emotions in the family members. No one knows where she came from. I liked how the filmmakers, through artistic means only, added a fantastic dimension to her story, as though the cow were an alien from outer space." Traditionally held at the Russian Pavilion in Village International, Global Russians presentations draw sizeable crowds of Russian and international producers, sales agents, distributors, investors, and festival curators. It gives emerging filmmakers a chance to be discovered and take the decisive leap in their careers.The Global Russians project was initiated by Roskino in 2011. Katya Mtsitouridze, ROSKINO CEO, is the project's author and curator. Each year, Roskino selects the best short films made in Russia. In the last five years, over 30 films have premiered at Cannes, including shorts by Zhora Kryzhovnikov, Taisia Igumentseva, Ilya Uchitel, Timofey Zhalnin, Anton Bilzho etc. The list of guest curators includes screenwriter and director Aleksey Chupov, film scholar Viktor Prokofiev, producers Ivan Lopatin and Dimitri Yakunin.