Satire makes waves on Russian TV

'Generation P' airs on Channel One

With Vladimir Putin poised to return to the top Kremlin post, Russia’s most watched television station has begun to show programming that veers from the party line.

Perhaps following the mood of protest in the country, state broadcaster Channel One aired “Generation P” — L.A.-based and Russian-born director Victor Ginzburg’s satirical take on the country’s politics set against the drug- and crime-filled world of capitalism in Russia in the early 1990s — in mid-February, just two weeks ahead of the presidential election.

Based on a novel by Viktor Pelevin — a popular and subversive writer who eschews publicity — the pic hit a nerve with auds and has taken in $4 million at the Russian box office since its release nearly a year ago. A hit on the festival circuit, the movie is now close to sealing a U.S. distribution deal.

Ginzburg, who left Moscow for America as teenager, credits Channel One’s topper, Konstantin Ernst, a dedicated cineaste, successful producer (“Night Watch,” “Day Watch”) and consummate political operator, with getting the film made in the first place.

“It was Ernst who came in with the money that allowed us to finish the film in post-production when he bought the TV rights at a time when no one else dared back the film,” Ginzburg says.

Covering all bases, the day Channel One aired “Generation P,” the canny Ernst premiered the company’s latest movie, “August the 8th,” a depiction of the brief 2008 war between Russia and Georgia in 2008, which delivers a pro-Kremlin view of the conflict.

Televising “Generation P” is far from a wholesale freeing up of Russia’s airwaves. Some see the programming move as a tactical retreat by the Kremlin in the face of the ongoing mass public protests.

An MTV Russia political talkshow, “State Department,” hosted by socialite and daughter of Putin’s early backer Anatoly Sobchak, was axed this month. MTV, which recently refused permission for society magazine “Snob” to air the show on its Internet site, claimed “State” was pulled for scheduling reasons, but critics say it was because the show was considered too politically risky.

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