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.
"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."
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