Vadim Vereshchagin, CEO of leading Russian production and distribution company Central Partnership, says it’s time for the world to give a second look to Russian cinema—particularly the slick commercial titles that are racking up boffo box office back home.
“The key thing for us right now is to explain to the foreign buyers primarily, ‘Look, we’ve got great films. We’re not asking the same amount of money as Hollywood independent studios would. But you get the same [quality],’” he says.
Central Partnership began in the 1990s as a television production outfit, before branching out into distribution of mostly arthouse fare. In the early 2000s, it began moving toward mainstream titles, and since 2009 has been the exclusive distributor for Paramount Pictures in Russia. Its library includes films from top U.S. and European studios, as well as an extensive catalog of arthouse and commercial Russian movies.
The company’s current slate, which it will be presenting to buyers during the Key Buyers Event organized by Russian film promotion body Roskino, runs the gamut from high-octane dramas with splashy special effects to a sports biopic about a Soviet soccer star and a slew of horror films.
“Chernobyl. Abyss” is the first major Russian feature film to depict the aftermath of the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the subject of HBO’s Emmy-winning miniseries “Chernobyl.” Directed by Danila Kozlovsky, it’s produced by Academy Award nominees Alexander Rodnyansky and Sergey Melkumov (“Leviathan,” “Loveless”), Kozlovsky (“The Coach”), Vadim Vereshchagin (“Billion,” “Text,” “Son of a Rich”), and Rafael Minasbekyan (“Furious,” “Frontier”).
“Fire” is a fast-paced actioner about heroic smokejumpers racing against disaster. “When you see it, you would not believe that these are special effects,” says Vereshchagin. “It’s a $10 million production. Good luck making that in the U.S. for anything below fifty.” Pic is directed by Alexey Nuzhniy and produced by Leonid Vereshchagin (“Three Seconds,” “The Crew”), Anton Zlatopolsky (“Three Seconds,” “Attraction”), Rafael Minasbekyan (“Furious,” “Frontier”), and Nikita Mikhalkov (“The Crew,” “Three Seconds”).
“Silver Skates,” which Vereshchagin describes as “‘Titanic’ on ice,” is an adventure-romance set at the tail end of the 19th century in the winter wonderland of St. Petersburg. Directed by Mikhail Lokshin, it’s produced by Petr Anurov (“The Coach”), Leonid Vereshchagin (“Three Seconds,” “Viking,” “The Crew”), and Rafael Minasbekyan (“Furious,” “Frontier”).
“Streltsov” is based on the life of rising Soviet soccer talent Eduard Streltsov, whose career is suddenly derailed on the eve of the World Cup. The film is directed by Ilya Uchitel and produced by Aleksey Uchitel (“Matilda,” “The Fool”), Rafael Minasbekyan (“Furious,” “Frontier”), Leonid Vereshchagin (“Three Seconds,” “The Crew”), and Anton Zlatopolsky (“Three Seconds,” “Attraction”).
Central Partnership has struck gold with the sports genre before, with Vereshchagin pointing to the success of hoops drama “Three Seconds,” which earned $14 million in China—a record for a Russian film. The outfit is also preselling four horror films. “Those films travel,” says Vereshchagin. “There are a lot of local horror films which we make and produce specifically for the international market, because that’s where the money is.”
The veteran exec credits platforms like the Key Buyers Event with presenting examples of Russian genre filmmaking that might upend the expectations of foreign buyers accustomed only to the country’s arthouse output. “The quality of our production is rising steadily. Our productions are at the same level as the European productions right now,” he says. He adds that while big-budget Russian war films like “Stalingrad” and “T-34” have sold widely in the past, even local dramas and comedies are “starting to get traction out of Russia, as well.”