Berlin Daily Spotlight: Russian Cinema

Forget about Italian Neo-Realism, the French Nouvelle Vague and the New German Cinema: make way for the Russian New Wave.

Actually, says producer Anna Katchko, “it’s been here for five or six years already and it’s really developing at a very good pace.”

Festivals have been key in granting exposure, but the films themselves are far from the dour epics the Soviet selectors used to submit for competition. They come from a new generation of outward-looking filmmakers, and are beginning to make inroads in the arthouse circuit.

It began in Venice in 2003 when Andrei Zvyagintsev’s “The Return” won the Golden Lion. It built up momentum when Konstantin Lavronenko nabbed lead actor in Cannes in 2007 for the same director’s “The Banishment.” Then at Cannes last year, Zvyagintsev’s “Elena” won the Un Certain Regard prize.

In between, Alexei Popogrebsky’s “How I Ended This Summer” won three Silver Bears in Berlin in 2010 for a pic that many critics dubbed the most exciting of the fest. Popogrebsky is back in Berlin this year with “Berlin Express” in the Co-Production Market.

Moscow has its equivalent get-together, the Moscow Business Square, of which Katchko is artistic director, and which runs alongside the Moscow Film Festival in June. Backed by the Culture Ministry, the CIS Fund, the Russian Cinema Fund and the fest itself, Business Square 2012 will have “more projects, more Russian producers keen to get involved now that Russia is in Eurimages (the European co-production fund), and more co-productions from outside, some of which can get finance from new funds in Russia,” Katchko says.

Katchko herself has two major co-productions lined up. The first sees her return to Kazakhstan, where she recently worked on historical epic “Myn bala,” to produce “Harmony Lesson,” directed by Kazakh director Emir Bargazin in co-production with Germany’s Rohfilm.

The second will be “Moscow Never Sleeps,” which Katchko describes as “the story of five people interacting in Moscow, ‘Magnolia’-style, over a 24-hour period.” The pic, which will be a co-production with Ireland, involving Kate Holly’s Blinder Film and the Irish Film Board, will be written and helmed by Johnny O’Reilly, a Moscow-based former journalist. O’Reilly is Irish, proving you don’t have to be Russian to be part of the country’s new wave.

Berlin Daily Spotlight: Russian Cinema
Rouble rising in film biz | Buyers keeping minds open, but wallets shut | Russian evolution | Eastern promise

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