Higher profile brings wider opportunities

Co-productions are back on the film industry map in Russia as the country comes down from its boom years, when a glut of domestic money and robust box office kept producers focused on the home market.

Changes in the way state film funds are awarded — which since November have come under control of the country’s powerful prime minister and former president, Vladimir Putin, and are now channeled through a limited number of larger production houses — and a sharp drop in options for private financing are fueling greater interest in the possibilities offered by co-productions.

The increased visibility for a new generation of critically acclaimed Russian directors — as demonstrated by the number of films in the Berlinale’s selection this year and the first time in years that a Russian film is in the main competition (Alexei Popogrebsky’s “How I Ended This Summer”) — is also drawing attention from funding bodies across Europe.

A series of new industry initiatives due to take place under the umbrella of a “Business Square” at this summer’s Moscow film festival will get their first airy in Berlin on Monday at a Russian lunch and roundtable at the Berlinale Co-Production market.

Backed by the Russian Ministry of Culture and state overseas film promotion body Sovexport Film, the series of events includes a three-day training seminar for Russian producers in association with EAVE (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs), a co-production market focusing on projects from the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), a day of industry discussions and other activities including a focus on co-producing with Baltic countries in association with the Tallin, Estonia film festival’s Baltic Event.

Anna Katchko, a producer with Moscow-based Tandem Production, who is a consultant to the Business Square events, said that the years when Russian producers could afford to ignore international collaboration are over.

“The way state film funding is distributed is changing, and money is now being channeled through a limited range of large companies. Although co-production is still not a big issue for most Russian producers we are trying to raise awareness of the benefits of working with producers from other countries — particularly those in Europe. It is likely that in the coming years there may be less money available for arthouse production so it makes sense to begin looking at different models for funding such films.”

The increased visibility some in the Russian film industry are seeking for co-productions comes at a time when Russian film is beginning to re-emerge at international festivals from the domestic ghetto it occupied in recent years.

Apart from the main competition entry there are four other Russian films in Berlinale official selection this year, including two shorts in youth section Generation Kplus and two in Panorama (Anna Fenchenko’s “Missing Man” and transvestite drama “Jolly Fellows” by Felix Mikhailov. Igor Voloshin’s controversial and bleak semi-autobiographical film “Ya” plays in the Forum.

Russian director Sergei Bodrov is also using Berlin as a platform for announcing “The Great Khan” — the sequel to his Oscar-nominated Ghengis Khan epic “Mongol.” Bodrov will shoot the movie next year in China, Kazakhstan, Germany and Mongolia.

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