Russia eyes Cannes festival

Events scheduled for Russian Pavilion

MOSCOW — Russian producers, distributors and exhibitors will be at the Cannes film festival in force this year as the country celebrates 100 years of its national cinema.

A series of events including promotional talks and discussions about Russia’s wealth of locations and expanding production facilities, presentations and a masterclass by Sergei Bodrov, director of recent international release Genghis Khan epic “Mongol,” are scheduled for a Russian Pavilion at the festival’s international village.

Organized by SovExportFilm — Russia’s oldest film industry support body, founded in 1924 — the pavilion will be the country’s first ever at Cannes.

Grigory Gevorkyan, the organization’s general director, says the weeklong series of events (May 14-25) mark the beginning of a shift in emphasis to a more international focus for Russian filmmakers after nearly a decade of booming domestic box office.

“We want to show foreign producers where and what they can shoot in Russia, what they can find here, crews, equipment, transport, locations and different climates — the full range of possibilities we have here,” Gevorkyan tells Variety.

After years of shunning foreign co-productions, partially due to the strength of the domestic market where last year Russian movies took a 26% share of a record-breaking $565 million B.O., producers have started to look overseas.

A growing awareness of the importance of international marketing and cooperation has spiked interest.

“Our producers very much want to work with co-productions, but many do not know with whom to connect or how to work internationally,” Gevorkyan says.

The Russian pavilion events are designed to address that issue through a mix of serious industry sessions such as a special two-day focus on Making Movies in Russia — featuring presentations by key producers, location managers and studio heads — and more relaxed events such as parties and receptions.

Foreign producers who are anxious about the cost of filming in Russia or perceived security concerns should be reassured by the willingness of private and state firms and agencies to address these issues, Gevorkyan says.

“International producers coming to film in Russia will find that prices are much more flexible than they think, particularly since new studio facilities are coming online that will increase competition for business.

“As far as security is concerned, apart from Chechnya, you can film anywhere in Russia without problems. The federal film agency is the guarantor for security issues and can help with financial questions such as insurance.”

Visitors to the Russian pavilion will be able to gain a flavor of early Russian and Soviet film through continuous showings of vintage films.

Scenes from Russia’s earliest feature, Vladimir Romashkov’s 1908 “Ponizovaya volnitsa,” (also known as “Stenka razin”) and an early Soviet film that features the avant-garde artist Vladimir Mayakovsky in a leading role “Baryshnya i khuligan,” which he co-directed with Yevgeny Slavinsky, are among those on the reel specially commissioned to commemorate the cinematic centenary.

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