OUTCOMES OF THE 76TH EDITION OF THE VENICE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL AND THE 44TH TIFF FOR THE RUSSIAN FILMMAKERS
The first half of September is the season of two high-profile film industry events, namely the international festivals in Venice and Toronto.
The 76th Venice International Film Festival, or Mostra del Cinema, took place on the Lido from August 28 to September 7, 2019, boosted by the Venice Production Bridge meeting point. The 11-day lineup comprised 65 recent feature films, 18 shorts, and 2 TV pilots. The main competition included 21 titles.
The Golden Lion went to Joker by Todd Phillips. The Grand Jury Prize was awarded to Roman Polanski for An Officer and a Spy. Roy Andersson took the Best Director prize for About Endlessness. The Best Actress honors went to Ariane Ascaride for Robert Guediguian’s Gloria Mundi while Luca Marinelli starring in Pietro Marcello’s adaptation of Martin Eden was declared Best Actor.
Russia played a role in the second most important Orizzonti section. Dmitry Mamuliya’s The Criminal Man, a Russian-Georgian co-production, received a high critical acclaim and was much appreciated by the professional community. The Red Snowball Tree by Vasiliy Shukshin restored by Mosfilm studios was one of the highlights of the Venice Classics section. The restoration launched to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the extraordinary director, actor and writer Vasiliy Shukshin took 90 days of work. The result was presented by Mosfilm Studios CEO, the director Karen Shakhnazarov.
Karen Shakhnazarov, Mosfilm CEO
‘The Classics program attracts as much attention as the main competition of the Mostra and the screenings always get a full house. It is a great honour for us to be a part of this section where iconic films compete for best restoration. We are most happy to see our efforts crowned by international festival awards. By a lucky coincidence The Red Snowball Tree was selected on the year of Shukshin’s 90th anniversary. Outside Russia Tarkovsky is definitely much more famous than Shukshin, and yet there was a full house, all tickets sold out, and a huge line outside. It felt really good, and one of the explanations is that Shukshin told true stories about the life of the common people.’
Venice Classics is the section that offers world premieres of the world’s best films restored since 2012.
The Italian National Association of Film, Audiovisual, and Multimedia Industries (ANICA) curated the business program and the co-production market. It hosted a special event that framed Italy as Europe’s audiovisual bridge between USA, China, and Japan. The industrial part of the festival included panels, breakfasts, lunches, showcases, and public debates with the participation of Roskino CEO Katya Mtsitouridze. During the last day of the market ANICA’s Head of International Relations Roberto Stabile confirmed the endorsement of the Roskino initiative to make Russia one of the focus countries of the market in September 2020 along with Italy and China. The news was received with great applause.
Alberto Barbera, Venice Film Festival director
‘The digital evolution and online platforms are bringing about the deepest transformation in cinema history. But cinema is an art form that is capable of adapting very fast. And new technologies mean that nowadays it is much easier to make a film. I am an optimist when it comes to the future of cinema and film festivals alike. They offer a unique possibility to meet each other, generate new ideas and content. I am happy to have been able to discover a new name for this edition. Dmitry Mamuliya’s The Criminal Man, a Russian-Georgian co-production, made a very strong impression, and I hope Venice will make the distinctive voice of this director as strong as he deserves.
I cannot imagine the global film landscape without Russia. Your traditions in this art form are very deeply rooted. Unfortunately at the moment there are not so many filmmakers that are up to the challenges of international film festivals but I would still like to mention Alexander Sokurov, Andrey Zvyagintsev, Kirill Serebrennikov, and a number of others. Roskino is leading the formidable effort of the international promotion of Russian films. Consistency is paramount in this respect, as you are proving year by year by moving in every possible direction, showcasing films at festivals and markets, networking, informing, and advising. A well-devised marketing strategy contributes to bringing a country to the global forefront provided that it offers quality content. I believe Russian cinema has a very bright future.’
Katya Mtsitouridze, Roskino CEO
‘For the past 5 years Roskino has been a partner of the market and festival in Venice. The co-production platform is an excellent platform for our producers to meet new people and look for funding. For instance, Venice was the launching pad for The Man Who Surprised Everyone by Natasha Merkulova and Alexey Chupov, one of the most acclaimed projects of recent years. This time the producer Katia Filippova used the opportunity to start getting international partners on board for a new project, The Way of Love, the first feature by Tamara Dondurey. Air, the new project by Alexey German Jr., was also unveiled at the Venice market. Unlike Toronto, Venice has an exciting focus on new names and new talents. Toronto is first and foremost a major market attracting projects from all over the world. This year’s TIFF lineup included Beanpole by Kantemir Balagov. The five screenings were all full and the Q&A sessions proved that the international audience was deeply touched by the film. Rights have already been sold to dozens of territories. Other Russian projects also created some buzz, and a number of important deals were made by our participants.’
Alexander Rodnyansky, Beanpole producer
‘Toronto is a key market and a great Academy Award launchpad. The Oscar race favours films that are already in the spotlight, with Cannes, Venice, or Berlin awards to prove their worth. It takes three things to join the race. First of all, you have to want to participate. Better still if you have a major festival award. The second factor is the international industry press such as Variety or Screen Daily: this is where the Academy members look for updates on the recent projects. And finally, the essential thing is to get an American distributor. There is no point in participating if you don’t have one. Beanpole has already collected two Cannes awards in Un certain regard section. On top of that, there have been other trophies in Sakhalin and at Zerkalo Tarkovsky fest. The film has toured the major American film events in Telluride and Toronto, it has been to San Sebastian and London, and this is just the tip of the iceberg, Balagov has much more in store. Just a couple of days ago Kino Lorber, one of the best and oldest independent distributors of the US, has taken the film on board by acquiring the rights for North America. This is a most important development in the run-up to the Oscar and Golden Globe campaign.’
The 44th Toronto International Film Festival unfolded from September 5 to September 15, 2019. The lineup of the high-profile global event included screenings, panels, presentations and other activities. The schedule consisted of 333 features from 80 countries, of which 133 screenings were world premieres, and 71 North American premieres. The main competition featured 37 titles. The screenings attracted over 400 000 attendees.
Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit won the main People’s Choice Award. The trophy consists of a Grolsch special prize and $15 000 in cash. The runners up were Noah Baumbach’s divorce drama Marriage Story and Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite.
Pietro Marcello’s adaptation of Martin Eden won the Platform section award that implies $20 000 in cash. The FIPRESCI jury awarded its Discovery programme prize to Heather Young for Murmur.
Kantemir Balagov’s Beanpole produced by Alexander Rodnyansky and Sergey Melkumov enjoyed a great TIFF success. The Russian title was one of the highlights of the prestigious Contemporary World Cinema section featuring high-profile movies that tell strong, appealing stories and touch upon the most relevant cultural and social problems. Previously Beanpole won the Best Director prize and the FIPRESCI award in the Un certain regard section of the 72nd Cannes festival. The rights for the Russian drama were acquired by Kino Lorber, one of the top US independent distributors. The festival slate included two more titles that had to do with Russia: the Citizen K documentary by Alex Gibney profiled Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Red Penguins by Gabe Polsky looked back at a hockey team that had tried to unite Russia and the US in the 1990’s.
As always, the film market was an essential part of the 44th TIFF edition. The participation of Russian companies was facilitated by the ROSKINO – RUSSIAN CINEMA WORLDWIDE umbrella stand organized by Roskino with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.
The traditional list of TIFF industrial participants included All Media Company, Planeta Inform Group, Wizart Animation, Riki Group, Russian World Vision, and Mosfilm Studios, to a total of 16 top Russian production and distribution players. Roskino unveiled the updated version of the DOORS international touring film market featuring the best Russian titles produced in 2018-2019.
From the very start the Russian content attracted buyers from France, the UK, the US, China, Korea, Japan, Germany, and other territories. Most of them had already been acquainted with the featured projects through Roskino newsletters. Dozens of deals of various scopes and formats were made at the market. The companies are still finalizing their calculations to announce the total contract values.
All Media showcased the The Hero, an action thriller by Karen Oganesyan, and The Frenchman, a drama by Andrey Smirnov.
Jane Shakshaeva, Head of All Media International Department:
‘The Hero by Karen Oganesyan and The Frenchman by Andrey Smirnov were the flagship titles of our TIFF lineup. Both offer fine examples of their respective genres: The Hero is a spy thriller with a lot of twists while The Frenchman is a profound drama in line with the greatest traditions of black and white classics.’
The Hero was sold to the former Yugoslavia. Negotiations with French, Italian, and Japanese distributors are in progress. The title had been previously acquired by Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Korea, the US, Canada, the UK, and a number of other countries.
Wizart Animation succeded in selling their flagship projects to over 60 territories.
Yuri Moskvin, Wizart CEO:
‘Wizart kicked off the new international market season at TIFF. We have launched several new projects and presented the unseen footage of Hansel and Gretel. On top of our own projects, we showcased Fantastic Return To Oz by Melnitsa Animation.
We had a very productive time at the Toronto market this year. Ongoing negotiations with our long-standing partners resulted in finalised contracts. All in all, we have reached out to 60 new territories. Along with the world-famous Snow Queen and Sheep and Wolves we have shown new projects such as the Snow Queen series and a number of features, including Hansel and Gretel and Ruslan & Ludmila Pushkin franchise’.
The DVD release of the third Snow Queen instalment will take place in the UK in November, 2019. Later on the UK audiences will be able to enjoy theatrical screenings of The Snow Queen 4: Mirrorlands. The UK rights belong to Altitude Film Entertainment.
Sheep and Wolves: Pig Deal is slated for release in Australia and New Zealand in January, 2020. The rights for these territories were acquired in Toronto by the Australian Eagle Entertainment. The Latin American theatrical distribution of Mirrorlands will be supervised by Sun Distribution Group while the Pig Deal went to Snap TV. Africa is already familiar with the Snow Queen franchise. The next discovery in store for the continent is Sheep and Wolves brought to Africa by Gravel Road Distribution Group, the same company that takes care of the Journey to Oz.
Sabre Dance by Yusup Razikov showcased by Mars Media has instantly sold to several Asian territories, including Japan, Thailand, and Singapore. Negotiations are in progress for Eastern Europe, France, and Spain.
Of the entire Planeta Inform Group slate, Coma by Nikita Argunov, Robo by Sarik Andreasyan, and The Lenin Factor by Vladimir Khotinenko attracted the keenest interest along with two horrors, Quiet Comes the Dawn by Pavel Sidorov and Queen of Spades: Through the Looking Glass by Alexander Domogarov Jr.
Anastasia Bankovskaya, Planeta Inform International Sales Director:
‘In the follow-up of the Toronto market negotiations are in progress about a whole range of projects to be distributed in the Middle East, the UK, Italy, Spain, China, Korea, Japan, and the US.’
RUSSIAN WORLD VISION showcased Barabbas, an unconventional take on the story of the criminal freed instead of Jesus. Sales continue for two projects currently in pre-production: The Forest by Evgeniy Puzirevskiy and The Locked Door by Arseniy Syukhin. The RWV lineup also included Pain Threshold by Andrey Simonov, The Big Deal by Mikhail Raskhodnikov, Follow Your Dream by Antonina Ruzhe, The House Elf fantasy by Evgeniy Bedarev, Break by Tigran Saakyan, All or Nothing, a comedy by Dmitry Suvorov, Temporary Difficulties by Mikhail Raskhodnikov, and Konstantin Maximov’s war drama Insuperable.
Riki Group focused on two 3D animation family features by Denis Chernov, My Toy Panda and My Friend Finnick.
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