Kremlin greenlights patriotic epic

Central Partnership to produce 'Brest Fortress'

Central Partnership, Russia’s leading independent production company, has won a government tender to make the first fully state-funded feature since Soviet times — $8 million budgeted patriotic war film, “The Brest Fortress” — in association with state film studio Belarusfilm in Russia’s Western neighbor Belarus.

It is the first of a raft of similar government-backed patriotic films that will roll out from 2010 onwards under a new policy that switches state funding to projects more in line with wider Kremlin political priorities.

The amount of money pledged is nearly 10 times as much as the maximum amount given in Russia in recent years for state-approved patriotic war films: Afghan war movie “9th Company” made in 2005 on a budget of $10 million received around $1 million; last year “1612” — an epic about the Russian-Polish war of that year, made at a cost of around $12 million also received a $1 million subsidy.

The move, announced Tuesday, suggests Moscow’s response to the increasing crisis in the Russian film industry is a return to a Soviet-era policy of supporting producers by spending taxpayer rubles on 100% state funded propaganda, nationalistic and patriotic projects.

The film — about the heroic defense of the Brest Fortress, a key border stronghold that held out for nine days, longer than expected, after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 — is being 100% financed through TRO, the television and radio broadcasting council of the Russia and Belarus Union State, a loose, supra-national association founded in 1996 that has been beset by vague objectives and lack of common political will in the two countries, both former Soviet republics.

The decision to target tax payer funds toward grand, nationalistic filmmaking seems to have brought some focus to the relationship. Filming on “Brest Fortress” is due to begin in Minsk in the spring, with a release scheduled for the 65th anniversary of the end of the war (known in both Russia and Belarus as the Great Patriotic War) in 2010.

The film’s producer credits will be shared between Igor Ugolnikov, chairman of the TRO, Ruben Dishdishian, head of Central Partnership, and Belarusfilm CEO, Vladimir Zametalin.

In a joint statement released by the parties Tuesday, Dishdishian said: “We are glad to be part of this project. At the moment we all need heroes and to take part in a film about the heroic defense of the Brest stronghold is very timely. I hope it will be successful with viewers, both those brought up on patriotic Soviet cinema and younger audiences.”

Ugolnik said the film would describe in detail the first day of the war and the way in which many different nationalities of the Soviet Union stood shoulder to shoulder to defend their motherland, adding that it would strictly adhere to “historical truth” and avoid cliched depictions of “crazed Germans and abnormal Russians.”

A spokeswoman for Central Partnership, Yulia Kulikova, added that participation in the project offered a measure of stability for the company in the coming year.

Russian ministry of culture head of press Natalia Uvarova told Variety, the return to 100% state funding was part of a new government drive to support both established and young directors, and producers of “children’s, educational, patriotic and cultural films” that championed the moral values of a democratic society and lawful state.

Some $70 million of a total of $194 million in film funding budgeted for 2010 would be earmarked for such projects and 10 100% state funded films are expected to be produced.

Uvarova added that the funding formula was “not exactly the same as in Soviet times, as now an expert commission will decide which projects are funded.”

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