RUSSIA AT TIFF 2018
The 43th Toronto International Film Festival, one of the key events in the film calendar, is running from September 6 to September 16. The line-up of the previous edition comprised 340 titles from 340 countries that attracted over 400.000 festival-goers. The 2018 selection features entries from 80 countries, including a number of North American premieres and a strong Latin American and European component.
TIFF follows the global trend of female empowerment by focusing on issues of sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement. Since the 2017 the festival has launched a special Share Your Journey initiative aimed at offering more opportunities to women behind and in front of the camera. On September 8 the festival holds a Respect Rally to support female filmmakers.
The Gala section includes 21 titles, in Special Presentations there are 52 films, of which 21 are world premieres and 13 are made by female directors.
The opening film is David McKenzie’s period drama Outlaw King starring Chris Pine as the Scotch national hero Robert the Bruce. The closing film is Justin Kelly’s true-story-based Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy with Kristen Stewart, Diane Kruger, and Laura Dern. Atop of an array of debuts the festival will screen new works by masters of the calibre of Paolo Sorrentino, Carlos Reygadas, Jia Zhangke, Jean-Luc Godard, Claire Denis, Alfonso Cuarón, and many others.
The Russian delegation is brought to TIFF 2018 by ROSKINO supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.
The festival slate features two Russian titles: Core of the World by Natalia Meschaninova and The Factory by Yury Bykov in the Contemporary World Cinema section.
Katya Mtsitouridze, ROSKINO CEO:
‘The festival in Toronto has been gathering momentum and building up its authority year by year. Over the last 5 years TIFF has been shaping the global industry agenda on a level that is second only to Cannes. All the more important is the fact that over 15 Russian films have been screened in the most prestigious sections of the festival during the recent editions. This year is also most fortunate. The TIFF programmers considered 9 highly appreciated Russian titles and selected the groundbreaking works of two bright and daring Russian filmmakers: The Factory, a social drama or rather a social thriller starring one of the top national talents, Denis Shvedov, and The Core of the World, the second film by the uncompromising auteur Natalia Meschaninova. The project has attracted a lot of attention last December at the Les Arcs co-production market when it was still at the initial phase of production. And now we see it representing Russia in Toronto where female directors are highly endorsed, although the work of this highly talented filmmaker goes far beyond the cliches of women’s cinema. Both Russian titles have strong global appeal and great chances at TIFF market that is among the top industry events in the world. The market is what makes Toronto more important than Venice that is taking place almost in parallel. As always, the ROSKINO – Russian Cinema Worldwide umbrella stand showcases a selection of new, promising Russian projects with a great international distribution potential.’
Core of the World is a drama co-written and directed by Natalia Meschaninova in a Russian-Latvian co-production. The protagonist, Egor, is a young vet at a training facility for hunting dogs somewhere in the backwoods. There is nothing but foxes, deer, badgers, and dogs. Egor lives in a lean-to shed next to the owner’s family, treats animals, oversees workhands, greets clients and their dogs. Getting along with animals is much easier for him than dealing with humans. And yet he is willing to take on any job to get closer to the facility’s owner and his near and dear. He wants the impossible: to become a member of that family.
Natalya Drozd, producer:
‘We instantly liked the script and the project convinced us at once. The film delves into one of the key problems of our civilisation that is behind major humanitarian disasters of the 20th century: we are prone to construe the troubles and mindsets of others through our own perspective, pursuing a highly judgemental vision of the good, making an energetic and destructive intrusion on the fragile ecosystem of etnocultural and social entities that are different from our own in the name of fighting for someone’s rights, without any clue of what the objects of the fight really need and how it might affect the other parties. The film shows a training facility for hunting dogs, a strange world with its own simple and peculiar ways. Such facilities have never made it to the big screen since in most countries they have long been banned. However the location offers precious insights into the inner world of the protagonist, Egor, a modern-day Mowgli that finds it easier to bond to animals than to humans.’
Natalia Meschaninova, director and co-writer:
‘The story is in a way inspired by the vicissitudes of the life of my nephew Oleg. His family did not want him so he took to the streets, ending up in a remand house and then in an orphanage. Core of the World is an attempt to find a better life for Oleg through cinema. To invent a character who cannot forgive his mother and grow up, who cannot deal with his own anger, fear and grievances and yet finds a family he can rely on. He is offered a chance of recovery. It is very important for me to raise the issue of pain and see how to deal with it, both from the inside and the outside. One’s bad past is not a life sentence, not even a diagnosis. The past is not there anymore, so there is a chance of working with the present to find a way out of the deep pit.’
Boris Khlebnikov, co-writer
‘To be perfectly honest, I have hardly any credit in this story. I was basically fine-tuning the script by reading the drafts and asking questions. The guys felt they needed advice and sparring ideas. However, it was Natalia who wrote the final script, and she was very much sure of what she was doing. I think she created a peculiar genre, a kind of mystic realism that allows us to enter into the protagonist’s head to hear and feel and interpret each and every thought and emotion. In Arrhythmia we wanted to tell a realistic story staying within the genre limits while Natalia created a genre of her own, and it is absolutely thrilling.’
Stepan Devonin, actor, co-writer
‘Since I worked on the script from the very start, in a way the protagonist reflects my personality. Although I had a perfectly happy childhood, I know many people with different experiences. For instance, a classmate of mine was rescued from an orphanage by her father. He had divorced her mother and moved to a different city with his new family so he could not know that the girl’s mother had been deprived of parental rights and my classmate had been sent to an orphanage. She was OK but sometimes used to steal food, even when there was no actual need for it. She also liked hugging. She would wrap her arms around you and stay like this, she could not let people go. She would snatch apples out of other people’s bags even if there were plenty of them around. It was clear from those habits that she was always half expecting people to betray her. And when you are thrown out again, at least you have an apple as a consolation. I tried to capture some of these qualities when I shaped the character of Egor.
He is a vet, a person who gets along with animals far better than with humans just because humans are traitors while animals do not betray. This is why he became a vet in the first place, or at least so I suppose.’
The second Russian title in the TIFF 2018 lineup is The Factory, a social thriller written, directed and co-produced by Yury Bykov in a joint Russian-Armenian-French effort.
After a local oligarch purchases a factory in a small Russian town and announces its closure, hundreds of blue collar workers are left with no means of support. Everyone meekly accepts this fate except for six desperate and reckless men who decide to kidnap the oligarch in order to get what is theirs. Greyhair, the roughneck leader, is an ex-military badly shell-shocked in a hot zone. Together with his comrades he initiates a mortal combat with the heavily armed bodyguards of the oligarch led by a man known as Fog. The outcome of the combat will show who is going to have the better hand, the rich or the poor. The cast includes Denis Shvedov, Andrey Smolyakov, Vladislav Abashin, Alexandr Bukharov, Ivan Yankovsky, and many more.
Yury Bykov, director, writer, co-producer:
‘It has been four years since The Fool, and all the time I was doing TV dramas. But I owe it to my public that has been waiting for a new feature. I could not have let all these people down so I am happy to present The Factory, a project I have been nurturing for a very long time. I wanted to make a gritty, masculine thriller with social implications. Essentially The Factory is a social thriller focused on the conflict of two opposite archetypes of men.’
Denis Shvedov, lead actor:
‘I was very happy to work with a director of the caliber of Yury Bykov. I would be happy to do anything with him, even be part of the supporting cast. His scripts are not only original, they are a unique form of genuine Art, with the capital A. His text is incredibly dense. Ordinary people do not talk like this in normal life, we always cut ourselves short to hide the density. By contrast, Bykov’s characters are unfailingly hefty, intense and profound. And yet their phrases are essentially quite simple. Somehow Yury manages to find the right balance, which is well appreciated by the public.
This time I got to play a dream role: my character struggles and goes out of his way to get what he wants.’
Ruslan Tatarintsev, producer:
‘It is no secret that our high-brow critics hardly spoil Bykov with their attention: they set no store by his crude truths. But honesty and persistent searching of the proverbial Russian soul is much appreciated by the public. At Kinopoisk.Ru, the main national film site, hundreds of thousands users voted The Fool the best film of the century. For those people Bykov is an iconic artist on a par with Shukshin, Vyssotsky. Balabanov… The Toronto selection offers yet another proof: Bykov is a great director who pays a lot of attention to the public.’
The TIFF 2018 industry program is starring the umbrella ROSKINO – RUSSIAN CINEMA WORLDWIDE stand brought to Toronto with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. The traditional protagonists are Central Partnership, All Media, Planeta Inform, Mars Media, Russian World Vision, Indie Vision: a total of over 35 production and distribution companies.
ROSKINO is presenting an updated version of the DOORS international traveling film market catalogue featuring best national titles of 2016-2018.
The portfolio of Central Partnership features an array of projects including Gogol. Origins, Gogol. Viy, and Gogol. Terrible Revenge by Egor Baranov, On the Block by Olga Zueva, The Fixies vs Crabots, a second feature in the successful franchise, Guests by Evgeny Abyzov, Yaga by Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy, Billion by Roman Prygunov, and How I Turned Russian by Akaki Sakhelashvili and Xia Hao. Negotiations are going on for Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy’s The Mermaid. Lake of the Dead, Coach by Danila Kozlovsky, Going Vertical by Anton Megerdichev, and The Fixies: Top Secret.
Katerina Pshenitsyna, International Sales Director:
‘Toronto is the start of a new sales season, and we are presenting an extensive catalogue of new titles. Our portfolio has never been more diverse, so our expectations for the coming markets are really big.’
All Media is presenting The Conquest of Siberia, Igor Zaytsev’s epic tale of the conquest of Siberia produced by Yellow, Black and White Studio. The efficient combination of period details, fast-paced narrative, and a story of first love unravelling in the times of Peter the Great appeals to all audiences. The catalogue also includes the second installment of Dmitry Dyachenko’s popular franchise, The Superfamily II.
The Planeta Inform package includes a selection of new horrors.
The Cursed Seat by Nadezhda Mikhalkova is slated for release on October 25. It is a teen horror thriller telling the story of a bunch of high school kids who learn the secret behind the urban legend of the cursed place. Apparently, everyone who gets a certain place in the local movie theatre is doomed. At first no one takes it seriously but a series of gruesome events forces the kids to reconsider their attitude. The friends start an investigation of their own only to become the main suspects. Trapped by fear and mistrust, the classmates decide to challenge the malevolent spirit of the cursed seat.
Ilya Maximov’s horror thriller The Soul Conductor is the story of Katya, a girl with a powerful gift: she sees ghosts. When her twin sister disappears, Katya embarks on a desperate search. The police insist that her sister does not exist at all, she is but a figment of Katya’s own sick imagination. Meanwhile Katya discovers that there is a serial killer loose on the streets, and her sister is just one of his many victims. There is still hope to save her, but in a dark and mysterious city full of secrets no one can be trusted. Not even Katya herself.
The Dawn by Pavel Sidorov is a horror produced by Dmitry Litvinov and Vladislav Severtsev, the duo behind the international success of The Bride. The film is slated for national release on January 31, 2019. The protagonist is a girl who loses her brother in mysterious circumstances. She suffers from vivid nightmares and decides to undergo a treatment in a somnology institute where she is induced into a conscious dream shared with other patients. But come dawn they wake up in a different reality that is worse than any nightmare.
Mars Media is focusing on the distribution of T-34, a military action by Alexey Sidorov, and The Ideal, a mystery drama by Kirill Pletnev, along with a number of other new projects.
The RUSSIAN WORLD VISION Toronto line-up features Konstantin Maximov’s true-story-based war drama Insuperable, aka Tankers. Although the national release is only slated for October, 2017, rights for several territories have already been sold. Negotiations are carrying on for Well Hello There, Oksana Sokolova, a comedy by Kirill Vasilyev. Other RWV titles include Break by Tigran Saakyan, currently in production, Temporary Difficulties, a true-story-based period drama by Mikhail Raskhodnikov scheduled for national release in October, 2018, Dmitry Suvorov’s period drama The First as well as All or Nothing by the same director.
The RWV Indie Vision branch presents Thawed Carp by Vladimir Kott and two directorial debuts: Light Up by Kirill Pletnyov and Middleground by Alisa Khazanova.