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Russia’s Lenfilm studio reopens, sets local pix

Move follows library sale

MOSCOW — Stages at St. Petersburg-based Lenfilm will soon be busy again after financial problems had all but shut down local production.

Facility projects an annual slate of six pics, and top priority is going to local talent — in particular, veteran arthousers Alexander Sokurov and Alexei German.

Renewed activity at Russia’s oldest studio follows its sale of rights for all its pre-1993 library to media holding Media-Most, which runs leading commercial station NTV and satellite subscription channel NTV-Plus, according to Lenfilm deputy chief Andrei Zertsalov.

The deal, brokered for an undisclosed sum back in 1997, has improved the studio’s financial situation, allowing it to go ahead with preparation of pics before state coin is transferred.

Taking dictation

Alexander Sokurov, whose most recent pic, “Moloch,” won the best scenario prize at Cannes this year, continues to explore the century’s dictators in his work.

While action of “Moloch” was set in Hitler’s Alpine residence over a weekend in 1942, director’s new project, “Approaching Paradise,” covers the last days of Lenin before his death in 1924.

The former film’s lead, Leonid Mozgovoi, who played Hitler, will likely be cast in the role of the Soviet revolutionary leader. Script is by Sokurov’s longtime collaborator Yury Arabov.

German’s new project is “How Difficult It is to be a God,” an adaptation of a novel by Soviet fantasist Boris Strugatsky.

Though Sokurov and German are arthouse masters, the two couldn’t be more different. The prolific Sokurov has shot more than 30 pics since his debut 20 years ago, while German — a notorious perfectionist — has made only five features in a 35-year career, including “My Friend Ivan Lapshin.”

“How long (German) will be working on (his latest) film, we just don’t know,” Zertsalov said.

Sokurov’s “Approaching Paradise” should be finished by the middle of next year.