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International Newswire: ‘Mathilde’ Director to Helm Biopics about Shostakovich, Soviet Rock Star

In today’s International Newswire, the director of the controversial Russian film ‘Mathilde’ pushes forward with his follow-up projects, A&E puts more focus on producing local content, and Women and Hollywood celebrates London ‘trailblazers’.

Director Alexey Uchitel, whose sumptuous period melodrama “Mathilde” elicited a hostile response from some religious and nationalist groups in Russia, has spoken about his upcoming projects to international press at the first Fipresci colloquium dedicated to Russian cinema in St. Petersburg. “Mathilde’s” sales company has also disclosed the latest deals on the pic.

Uchitel’s next feature will center on the late Soviet rock-star Viktor Tsoi, he said. He is also developing a project about Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. The helmer will no doubt be hoping for a warmer reception for these movies than that which greeted “Mathilde,” which recounts the passionate affair between the future Tsar Nicholas II and the Imperial Ballet star Mathilde Kschessinska.

The film almost didn’t make it to Russian theaters. Before the scheduled release, rumors flew about the content. Without having seen the film, a member of the Russian Parliament and high-ups in the conservative Russian Orthodox Church (where Nicholas II is a canonized saint) condemned it. Mysterious right-wing groups threatened to burn down any theater that screened it.

After some delay, the film opened in October and is still showing across the country without incident. It is also on screens in Germany and the Baltic states. German sales agent Kinostar reports sales to German-speaking Europe, Bulgaria, ex-Yugoslavia, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Benelux, and is currently negotiating with Poland and North America.

Another of this year’s smash hits, also boasting jaw-dropping production values, is “Salyut-7,” from California State University, Northridge-trained helmer Kilm Shipenko. Based on the heroic 1985 mission to save the stalled Soviet space station, this riveting space-thriller plays like a combination of “Gravity” and “Apollo 13.” Shipenko’s deft direction and command of action tropes should see him seguing to big-budget Hollywood projects. French bizzer Indie Sales has already closed multiple territories in Europe and Asia.

A&E NETWORKS EYES INVESTMENT IN LOCAL PRODUCTION COMPANIES
A luxury networking facility just up from a Caribbean beach, this year’s three-day MipCancun, which wraps Friday, will see deals signed and multiple relationships begun. It has also been an occasion for industry execs to debate how to battle and embrace digital disruption. One way is by driving into local production, A&E Networks’ Ed Sabin said in a keynote.

According to Enders Analysis, TV imports lost more than half their audiences on British free-to-air channels over 2011-16. “Twenty to 30 years ago, any primetime schedule would have … American shows. Now those shows are scheduled in different parts of the day, even in late night,” Sabin pointed out. To get a piece of primetime audiences, foreign companies “have to be speaking more compellingly to those local markets,” he added.

So A&E is “putting more focus on developing and producing local content and looking into investment and ownership of local companies to help serve that pipeline,” Sabin confirmed. A&E is looking to replicate its Singapore studio, which makes digital content, in other parts of the world. Knowing which local markets and companies to invest in is of course just part of the complex if exciting international TV business.

WOMEN AND HOLLYWOOD CELEBRATES TRAILBLAZERS IN LONDON
Women and Hollywood, an initiative that “educates, advocates and agitates for gender equality in Hollywood and the global film industry,” will host the London celebration of its 10th anniversary at The May Fair Hotel on Nov. 27.

As part of their celebrations the organization has “recognized a number of trailblazing women who through their work, their voice, and/or or their activism have been a part of raising the level of the conversation on gender equality,” according to a statement released Thursday.

The London “trailblazers” include producer Alison Owen (“Harlots,” “Suffragette”), director Gurinder Chadha (“Viceroy’s House,” “Bend it Like Beckham”), producer Elizabeth Karlsen (“Carol,” “Made in Dagenham”), Clare Stewart, BFI head of festivals, and festival director of the BFI London Film Festival, Corrina Antrobus and Simran Hans of Bechdel Test Fest, and theater producer Zelda Perkins, who was the first person to break her non-disclosure agreement with Harvey Weinstein following the tidal wave of allegations accusing him of decades of sexual harassment and assault.

“Women and Hollywood has been highlighting the need for gender equality since before the conversation became mainstream. We are thrilled to be honoring these incredible women, from accomplished producers Alison Owen and Elizabeth Karlsen, to groundbreaking director Gurinder Chadha, to Clare Stewart, the leader of the BFI London Film Festival, as well as next generation activists Corrina Antrobus and Simran Hans,” said Melissa Silverstein, founder of Women and Hollywood. “We will also pay a special tribute to Zelda Perkins who was the first person to break her non-disclosure agreement with Harvey Weinstein following the explosive revelations about his [alleged] decades of sexual harassment and assault.”

Also as part of their anniversary celebrations Women and Hollywood conducted a short-film contest for first-time female filmmakers trying to break into or progress in the entertainment business. There were more than 1,000 entries. The London winner and runner up will both have their films shown on the evening. The London winner was “Annie Waits,” directed by Marnie Paxton-Harris, and the runner up was “Present,” directed by Meg Campbell.

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