While cinemas worldwide have spent the better part of this year shuttered or operating at limited capacity, few film industries have felt the pain quite like Russia’s, which generates roughly 80% of its revenues from theatrical receipts, according to Evgenia Markova, head of the Russian film promotion body Roskino.
But while local profits have plummeted, Russian producers continue to find growing interest from foreign buyers, with Markova pointing to strong sales at Mipcom and at the Key Buyers Event, a virtual showcase for domestic productions that took place this summer.
“The Russian industry has learned to adapt to all the new circumstances,” she says. “It became more flexible, and more responsive to the needs of the global market.” A number of high-profile Russian projects will be introduced to foreign buyers during AFM, beginning with “Major Grom and the Plague Doctor,” a big-screen adaptation of the hit comic-book franchise from Bubble Comics. Bubble Studios is handling international sales for a film that will be released in Russia by Walt Disney Studios in April.
Filmed in St. Petersburg, “Major Grom” is the story of a police officer on the hunt for a mysterious, masked vigilante who goes on a killing spree in order to cleanse a world he declares to be “plagued by injustice.” Directed by Oleg Trofim (“Ice”), the film is produced by Artyom Gabrelyanov and Mikhail Kitaev — the producers behind blockbuster hits “T-34” and “Attraction” — and lensed by cinematographer Maxim Zhukov, who photographed the sci-fi hit “Sputnik.” Mila Rozanova, VP of sales for Bubble Studios, called “Major Grom” “a perfect commercial foreign-language title for the global marketplace.” “We believe that ‘Major Grom’ is exactly what international buyers are looking for,” she says.
“It’s an action-driven story from a visionary director based on a bestselling comic book that is yet very authentic.” The $10 million action-superhero movie, she adds, “speaks in the storytelling language of today in terms of charismatic characters, mandatory sense of humor, VFX, pacing.” “The Last Warrior: Root of Evil,” the follow-up to the 2017 smash hit “The Last Warrior,” is directed by Dmitriy Dyachenko and produced by the Walt Disney Co. CIS, Yellow, Black and White, and Russia-1. All Media, which is owned by Yellow, Black and White, is handling international sales.
In “Root of Evil,” the ancient evil that was defeated in the first film of the franchise rises again, and the existence of the magic world Belogorie is endangered. All Media is in talks with a number of distributors, says Zhanna Shakhshaeva, the company’s head of international, who expects to close deals on all international territories during AFM.
Directed and written by Anastasiya Palchikova, “Masha” is the story of a 13-year-old girl growing up between the boxing ring and the streets of her roughand-tumble provincial town during the collapse of the Soviet Union. After making it to Moscow in an effort to start a new life, however, the past catches up with her, and she’s forced to return to her hometown to set things right.
“Masha” is produced by 1-2-3 Production. It stars Maksim Sukhanov (“Country of the Deaf,” “Viking”), Anna Chipovskaya (“The Road to Calvary,” “The Thaw”) and Polina Gukhman, with cinematography by Gleb Filatov (“The Bull,” “Dead Mountain. The Dyatlov Pass Incident”). Nadiia Zaionchkovska, sales and co-production executive at 1-2-3 Production, says that “there is universality in a girl’s [coming-of-age story] …, which will allow viewers to connect with it all over the world.”
The venerable Soyuzmultfilm animation studio, meanwhile, will present three new animated features at AFM. “The Alpine Campaign” is the story of Grisha, who is conscripted into the Russian army on the eve of a treacherous campaign in the Alps. Determined to survive and return to the woman he loves, Grisha must overcome his self-doubt and accomplish a single heroic act. The CGI-animated feature is set for delivery next spring. Two other features are in development and slated for a 2023 release.