Global Russians Presentation at Russian Pavilion at Cannes
On 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
Directed by Gala Shiyan
Starring Dmitry Erokhin, Alexander Levitsky, Ivan Kozin, Sergei Sychugov, Maxim Vintovkin
A 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.
"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."
Directed and produced by Olga Dibtseva
Starring 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.
"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 Antokhin
Produced by Nodar Dzhincharadze, Petr Antokhin
Starring 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.
"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."
Directed by Lado Kvataniya
Produced by Ekaterina Kononenko
Starring Maria Krylova, Vladimir Verevochkin
The 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."
"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."
Directed by Daria Vlasova
Produced by Yanna Buryak
Starring Vitaliy Khodin, Maria Bolonkina, Gleb Orlov, Yaroslava Bazaeva, Igor Yasulovich
Another 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.
"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.