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Documentary delves into Tolstoy

Footage from last two year's of novelist's life restored

A century after the death of one of the world’s greatest novelists, unique documentary film footage shot during the last two years of the life of Leo Tolstoy is being restored.

The footage, stored in Russia’s State Archive of Film and Photo Documents near Moscow, is being scanned and digitalized for editing into a 72-minute Russian-German feature docu co-production.

Pic is due to be completed in time for the 100th anni of Tolstoy’s death on Nov. 20, and European Film Market buyers and distributors will be treated to 15 minutes from the rough cut on Monday.

The rare B&W footage includes scenes of Tolstoy lensed at his country estate, Yasnaya Polyana, near Tula, 125 miles south of Moscow. The elderly, bearded figure is seen walking in the woods and giving alms to poor villagers. There are scenes from his funeral and the national grieving that accompanied his death.

Dubbed “Leo Tolstoy: Genius Alive Project” by its producers, the film is Russia’s key contribution toward marking the anniversary of the writer’s death. The scribe died from pneumonia at the age of 82, at a provincial railway station in Astapovo.

Tolstoy is the subject of a slew of books and films this year that includes Michael Hoffman’s “The Last Station,” a dramatization of Tolstoy’s last days that stars Helen Mirren, Christopher Plummer and James McAvoy.

In Russia — where his works remain set texts for schoolchildren — the novelist remains controversial and there are currently no plans for any major official Russian national events, something the producers attribute to the controversy over Tolstoy’s excommunication by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1901 that was reconfirmed in 2001.

Produced by Amselfilm (producer Natalia Drozd), CTB Film Company (producer Sergey Selyanov), and Hermitage Bridge Studio (producer Andrey Deryabin), in association with the State Archive of Film and Photo Documents (director Natalia Kalantarova), with the assistance of ARRI Film & TV Services, the doc promises auds a glimpse into the loves, family life and civic role of the literary giant during the last two years of his life.

Also on the the literary anniversary front, a feature film adaptation of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s “Ivanov” — about an intellectual suffocating in the narrowness of 19th century Russian petit bourgeois society — has been produced to mark the 50th anni of the Chekhov’s birth. Directed by Vadim Dubrovitsky, the movie being repped at the EFM by Moscow-based sales company Intercinema.

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