Passport magazine: Russian lifestyle
Home Archive December 2008

About Us

From the Publisher

Contact Us

Current IssueArchive
Restaurant GuideRestaurant ReviewsInternational Food BlogsWine TastingsTravelMoscow EmbassiesAirlines to RussiaMoscow AirportsCustoms and VisasResidence permitMoscow Phone DirectoryMuseums and GalleriesWi-Fi Hot Spots in MoscowClubs!Community ListingsMoscow Downtown MapMoscow Metro MapRussian LinksInternational Links
Advertise with Us
Our Readers - a profileAdvertising RatesDistribution List
Click for Moscow, Russia Forecast
Our Partners
Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


The Year in Film in Review
Text Vladimir Kozlov

The year 2008 has turned out to be quite an eventful one for the Russian film industry. The government has adopted a new scheme of financial support for the industry, while several domestic movies collected prizes at international festivals, and a Russian movie (Sergei Mikhalkov’s 12, a remake of the 1957 Sidney Lumet classic 12 Angry Men) won an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film.

“The Best Movie Ever”

It is no secret that Russia’s film industry largely depends on the government for financial support. Industry insiders say that the vast majority of the over 100 feature films currently made in the country each year would not be possible without cash from the government. And, predictably, many in the Russian film industry were taken aback when the federal agency for culture and cinema was disbanded last May, making the future of the 3 billion ruble ($120 million) a year film support program unclear.

Fortunately, no drastic changes ensued, and the federal agency’s tasks with regard to cinema were transferred to the culture ministry, accompanied by an announced increase in state support to the industry — an additional 150 million rubles ($6 million) in 2009 followed by another substantial increase of 1 billion rubles ($80 million) in 2010. Changes to the current system of distributing the funds will go along with the increases: The lion’s share of state money will now go to a few state-approved projects and to a handful of the most commercially successful domestic producers.

“Hitler Kaput”

At this point, it is too early to say whether the new scheme will represent an improvement as it has yet to start working. But, in any event, one thing remains clear: The current system — which provided state funding to too many profoundly mediocre films that could hardly attract viewers, let alone prizes at (or even invitations to) film festivals – had to be amended.

Over the next three years, the Russian government has pledged over 11 billion rubles [more than $520 million] in state financing to the nation’s film industry.

That said, the old state financing system did foster some good efforts, at least judging by international prizes awarded to Russian productions. Although no Russian film or director won the main prize at a major film festival this year, several films received important awards, which may be seen as a sign of the stable performance of a group of producers and directors.

Even as Nikita Mikhalkov — whose Utomlyonny Solntsem [Burnt by the Sun] won the Oscar for best foreign language film in 1995 — remains a presence on the international festival circuit, it is the successes of younger Russian directors that may be more important. For example, Anna Melikyan’s Rusalka [Mermaid] won the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) Panorama prize at the 58th Berlin International Film Festival, which probably helped the movie become Russia’s submission to the competition for 2009 best foreign language film Oscar. Although it is too early to gauge its prospects in the Oscar race, Mermaid, which is Melikyan’s sophomore effort, does have a shot at winning an Academy nomination.

Another young notable is Alexei German Jr., son of the renowned director Alexei German. The younger German has made three films to date, all of which took part in the official competition at Venice, where his debut feature, Posledny Poyezd [Last Train], brought him the Luigi De Laurentiis Award three years ago. This year, he was one of the main winners at Venice with Bumazhny Soldat [Paper Soldier], collecting the Silver Lion for best director. This recognition left German just short of the success Andrei Zvyagintsev had at Venice five years ago, when his Vozvrashcheniye [The Return] won the Golden Lion for best film.

“Last Train”

Although German’s movies are not commercial and may not find large audiences in today’s Russia, he is widely considered to be one of the country’s most promising film directors, and his work is certainly good for the international image of the Russian film industry. In light of the international reception given German and Melikyan, one could argue that Russian filmmakers are doing better when it comes to art house cinema. However, the country’s commercial cinema still has a long way to go before it can offer audiences something good.

For evidence of this state of affairs, just take a look at this year’s domestic box offi ce champions. Movies like Samy Luchshy Film [The Best Movie Ever] or Gitler Kaput [Hitler Kaput], which were able to draw huge crowds to movie theaters, are far from good judging by just about any standards. The fact that people still rushed to see them may be explained by several factors, including a lack of better offerings for unsophisticated audiences, the undeveloped tastes of the majority of younger moviegoers (a function of the steady diet of low-quality television shows they’ve consumed over the last few years), and heavy promotion by TV networks that helped produce the movies.

Timur Bekmambetov’s sequel to the Soviet TV movie Ironiya Sudby [Irony of Fate], which also did extremely well at the box office at the beginning of this year, may have been better on the artistic side, but it was not the film’s artistic merits that explained its popularity. Rather, it was the idea of a sequel to a film that has been a staple of the New Year’s celebration for several generations that attracted people to theaters, including those who hadn’t gone to the movies for 15 years or so.


In other sad news for domestic filmmakers, most of this year’s releases, including those predicted to do well, such as

Den D [D-Day] or Novaya Zemlya [Terra Nova], flopped at the box office, providing further evidence that something has to be changed in filmmakers’ and producers’ attitudes and strategies. The new state film financing system to be implemented in 2009 has a chance to effect these badly needed changes. Let’s hope it does.

 Copyright 2004-2012 +7 (495) 640 0508,,
website development – Telemark
OnLine M&A Russia Deal Book
Follow Us