Russian reconnect

Among the films being screened is The Good Boy , which won accolades at Russia’s largest festival.

Among the films being screened is The Good Boy , which won accolades at Russia’s largest festival.  

The Russian Film Days festival showcases the best of the country’s contemporary cinema and strives to restore lost cinematic ties between the two countries in the aftermath of Perestroika

Mumbai’s tryst with world cinema seems to know no end. We’ve very recently had the Mumbai film festival, and now The Russian Film Days is upon the city. Organised by Russia’s Cinemarus production company, the second edition of the festival starts today and will run till November 18, featuring eight of the country’s finest contemporary films.

The festival will open at the Royal Opera House with a formal ceremony, followed by a screening of the film Very Best Day, directed by Zhora Kryzhovnikov. The remaining films will be screened at Cinepolis Andheri. Supported by the Russian Ministry of Culture and the Russian Filmmakers’ Union, the fest strives to restore the lost cinematic ties between India and Russia in the aftermath of Perestroika, the political movement that involved the restructuring of the Soviet political and economic system. “This connection was interrupted for many years, but the festival of Russian cinema conducted last year showed there was [huge interest] in local audiences for our cinema,” says Maria Lemesheva, general producer of The Russian Film Days.

The present edition will showcase works from various genres, including action, drama, comedy and animation. Created by Russia’s best talent, the films that will be screened have all won global accolades. For instance, there’s Okasana Karas’s The Good Boy, which won the Best Film and Audience’s Choice categories at the 2016 Kinotavr Film Festival (Russia’s largest national festival); Nikolay Lebedev’s The Crew, which has been distributed in over 20 countries and is touted to be Russia’s biggest blockbuster of the year; and Nikolay Khomeriki’s Icebreaker, one of the country’s biggest hits in recent times.

Whether it’s Sergei Eisenstein’s theory of the montage or Andrei Tarkovsky’s long takes, cinema from the former Soviet Union influenced an entire generation of filmmakers. Perestroika proved to be a major turning point as much for the country as for the Russian film industry. While filmmakers began taking up taboo topics like drugs and sex, cinema itself, as a strong entity, began to fade away on the world stage. The opening up of the economy also meant that the local film industry got swept aside by the tidal wave of Hollywood.

Despite increasing national and international investment in the film industry, Russian cinema continues to lose out significantly to Hollywood films in the domestic screening circles. Hollywood continues to rule, having entered the Russian domain with its aggressive marketing tactics after the dissolution of the USSR. Russian films hardly account for 23 per cent of the total box office collection every year, in the local circles.

Under these circumstances, the first blockbuster to emerge post Perestroika was Night Watch in 2004, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, a well-known name in the Hollywood circuit. In fact, the Russain film industry has grown by leaps and bounds in the last year alone, says Lemesheva. Especially technologically, it appears. “Several films were shot on IMAX, while some companies are now capable of producing special effects at the global level,” she says. The Crew has employed IMAX technology in certain parts of the film. Recently Ilya Naishuller’s Hardcore Henry redefined action in Russian cinema.

At the same time, low-budget films have been participating in international film festivals and gaining recognition. Andrei Konchalovsky’s war film Paradise won several accolades internationally, including the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival 2016, and secured a place as the country’s official entry at the 89th Academy Awards.

The Russian Film Days festival will be attended by actors Catherine Shpitsa, Elena Zakharova, Ieva Andrejevaite, Olga Filimonova, Alexander Pal and Sergey Chirkov, and producers Vasily Solovyov and Igor Tolstunov among others. The film screenings will be followed by interactive sessions with the actors and filmmakers.

Joining hands

In 1991, the Mithun Chakraborty-starrer Shikari was shot in Russia and co-directed by Umesh Mehra and Latif Faizyev. Now, 25 years later, the Indian and Russian film industries are looking towards co-production again. This time it’s with the film, Best Friends, directed by Beslan Terekbaev. Its premise revolves around the adventures of three young boys: a Russian, an Indian and a Chechen. The team recently met in Delhi with representatives of the Indian film industry to discuss the terms of cooperation. “Our choice of partnering with India is not accidental; it is a country well-known for its rich cinematic history,” said Terekbaev, in an email interview. “I am sure that Best Friends will be the beginning of the revival of the dialogue between our film cultures.” The production team will consist of a motley crew of professionals, from both the Indian and Russian industries.

Entry to The Russian Film Days is free, but seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Check the event’s Facebook page or write to for details.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 3:35:30 PM |

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