New People in new age of Russian pix

'Victim,' 'Poet,' 'Agronomist' among New People's projects

MOSCOW — Russia’s film industry is picking up momentum on every front — and producers at a project titled New People are proving you don’t need to spend a fortune to attract auds.

Project’s first pic, “Playing the Victim,” rolls out locally June 8 on around 100 copies through local indie distrib West. Directed by TV and theater helmer Kirill Serebrennikov, it’s a darkly absurdist comedy adapted from Serebrennikov’s Moscow Arts Theater stage production of the play by Urals-based brothers Oleg and Vladimir Presnyakov.

Critical acclaim was considerable after a single Moscow press screening for the pic about a mixed-up university dropout who takes a job re-enacting victim roles in murder inquiries for Russian police — before capping the story with his own Hamlet-style agenda.

Pic bows at Russia’s Kinotavr national fest on same date as its national release.

The Presnyakov brothers have found stage acclaim in English-language productions around the world, starting with London’s Royal Court.

For “Victim’s” chief producer Natalya Mokritskaya, legit adaptations have plenty of contempo relevance. “Modern stage drama more accurately catches the mood of the moment — somehow, it’s faster and more interesting,” Mokritskaya tells Variety.

It’s also proved economical, with “Victim” coming in at around $750,000, with about a third of that coming from Russian state financing sources.

“Victim” is the first of at least five scripts in prep under the New People banner, which seeks to adapt accessible yet risk-taking material for young audiences.

Upcoming projects include “The Poet, ” a loose adaptation of “Dangerous Liaisons,” and “The Agronomist,” scripted by Alexei Golovchenko, who’s also working on script “Four Ages of Love.”

Against a background of escalating budgets driven by local industry results — and with Russian government funding bodies aiming particular financing support at debut helmers — that could be a more than canny hunch. And it’s a niche to which foreign fests and auds alike may just respond, especially when author names are well known from more elite legit reviews.

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