Russian film promotion body Roskino has organized a virtual content market showcasing the latest Russian productions to international buyers. Unspooling from June 8-15, the Key Buyers Event: Digital Edition features a program of live presentations, pitches, panel discussions, and matchmaking sessions, along with a dedicated co-development and co-production section and a screening room with more than 150 hours of Russian film, TV, digital and animated content. Here are some of the key projects from up-and-coming Russian producers to look out for:
Producers: Alexey Kiselev, Sergei Bondarchuk, Anastasia Koretskaya, Vyacheslav Murugov, Maxim Rybakov (Rent A Video Studio)
Director: Fedor Bondarchuk
Genre: TV series/psychological drama
The series revolves around the lonely and confused inhabitants of a major city, who live to feed the ambitions of their egos. They have been led away from happiness, peace of mind, and even themselves by values that have been dreamed up and imposed on them. A constant desire to improve their social status devalues love, family bonds and, ultimately, their own lives, making their achievements meaningless. This is a story about the constant choice we all have to make. It is a story of our endless attempts to escape ourselves, living superficial lives out of a fear of looking deeper and discovering that destruction is irreversible.
Kiselev: “Fedor Bondarchuk took a chance on us [and] gave a bunch of young but daring producers the opportunity to produce his debut work in a TV series. If not for everyone involved, this project would have never happened. As soon as Sergei and I read Paulina’s script, I knew this was something extraordinary. No one has ever tried to do something so provocative in Russia. It’s about that final choice that everyone makes in order to find themselves.”
Producers: Aleksey Trotsyuk, Eduard Iloyan, Denis Zhalinskiy, Vitaliy Shlyappo (Yellow, Black and White)
Director: Elena Khazanova
Genre: TV series/drama
An espionage drama set in the 1990s and present-day Russia, with a strong female protagonist. It’s the story of a complex, dynamic woman named Hope who lives a double life and has a hidden secret dating back to her youth. Mainly she’s a loving mother and wife to her unsuspecting family, but she also has an inescapable alter-ego as a ruthless contract killer who is now desperately trying to save her family and find a way out.
Trotsyuk: “‘Hope’ is on the edge of various genres, somewhere between an action film, a tense thriller and a classic comic book story. It’s our new series from the makers of ‘The Cleaned Up.’ An action story, with little blood, unpredictable plot and very unusual relationships. It’s going to be vibrant and exciting.”
“Games People Play”
Producers: Irina Sosnovaya (Yellow, Black and White, Start)
Director: Konstantin Bogomolov
Genre: TV series/drama
An anthology of three love stories from lockdown. In the first, Maria and Nicola are lovers stuck in a nationwide lockdown with their spouses. An endless web of lies meant to hide their illicit affairs creates tension, confusion and sometimes comedy with dramatic consequences. In the second, Anna lives alone. She periodically receives calls from Victor, a man from her past. Though she hates picking up the phone for him, why does she always feel compelled to answer? And in the final story, a nameless young girl is looking for a job online when she receives an unusual offer from a middle-aged male stranger. What does her new employer want in exchange?
Sosnovaya: “‘Games People Play’ shows us that quarantine is not the reason to put life on pause and to wait when all this will be over. On the contrary, it allowed us to feel that everything that is happening now is real life. And it’s up to us to make the most of it, to create and to truly get to know ourselves and the people around us.”
“Six Empty Seats”
Producers: Valeriy Fedorovich, Eugeniy Nikishov (Premier Studios)
Director: Petr Todorovsky
Genre: TV series/drama
Six colleagues from a small real-estate firm accidentally miss their flight, miraculously avoiding a plane crash. The narrow escape triggers an awareness that none of them has had a chance to live their dream. With their doubts set aside, the group agrees to commit a heist. With nothing but bags full of cash, they go on the run in pursuit of their most cherished desires and ambitions. But they chose to rob the wrong guy and become his prey. And on top of that, there’s a rat among them.
Fedorovich and Nikishov: “The insight of survival hits hard and makes the characters risk everything, only to experience life to the fullest regardless of social expectations. The recent lockdown gave all of us the chance to consider our life choices, and probably some of us will take action and move in unexpected directions. After all, we only live once. The series features an unprecedented, star-studded Russian cast with award-winning actors from leading parts to the smallest roles.”
Producers: Alexander Tsekalo, Ivan Samokhvalov, Alexandra Remizova
Director: Fluza Farkhshatova
Martha is a brilliant lawyer whose rule of thumb is that she only protects women. She always wins cases, even if it requires not entirely legal methods. But when her business, her child, and even her life are on the line, Martha will have to admit that she also needs protection.
Samokhvalov: “This is the first project in Russia where a strong woman changes the lives of other women for the better. Those women who are still afraid to stand up to the patriarchal society and defend their rights.”
“Project Anna Nikolaevna”
Producers: Alexandr Tsekalo, Ivan Samohvalov, Olga Filipuk, Dmitry Nelidov, Mari Trubnikova, Alexandra Remizova
Director: Maxim Pezhemsky
Genre: TV series/comedy, sci-fi
Russian scientists have created an android policeman. Perfect in all respects, Captain Anna Nikolaevna Korolkevich goes to serve in a provincial city to see real life and become a human. Colleagues think that Anna Nikolaevna is the daughter of the deputy minister, and nothing portends trouble until humanization goes too far.
Nelidov: “‘Project Anna Nikolaevna’ is a bold and funny popular sci-fi comedy. We tried to bring the future closer and confront it with today’s reality. The show deals with the urgent issues of sexism and people being gradually made redundant by artificial intelligence and machines in a light-hearted way. We were not afraid to mix genres, making the viewer both laugh and sometimes feel sad. Just like in real life!”
“Silver Skates” (pictured)
Producers: Petr Anurov (Kinoslovo), Leonid Vereshchagin, Nikita Mikhalkov (Studio TriTe), Anton Zlatopolsky (Russia 1), Rafael Minasbekyan (GPM KIT)
Director: Mikhail Lockshin
Genre: Romantic drama
The year 1900 is just around the corner. In winter, St. Petersburg transforms into a fairytale-like wonderland where frozen rivers and canals bustle with activity. The city is home to 18-year-old Matvey, who works as a delivery boy at a famous local bakery. The son of a poor lamplighter, his only treasure is a pair of silver-plated skates he inherited from his father. Meanwhile, a high-ranking official’s daughter Alisa is feeling like a prisoner in her father’s mansion. One day their paths cross.
Anurov: “‘Silver Skates’ was a real passion project for our team. We are excited to immerse international audiences in a magic atmosphere of frozen channels and rivers and hope viewers will be touched by this incredible love story. Apart from that, we see a strong and independent female hero who struggles for women’s rights—to study and manage her personal life against the traditions of the Russian Empire.”
Producers: Dmitry Lunev, Natalya Golodova, Boris Mokrousov, Alexey Vorobyev, Eketerina Matvienko (Prospect)
Director: Rustam Ilyasov
Genre: Young adult comedy
After two years in prison, the popular soccer player Anton Kovalev is released. Injuries do not allow him to play and his reputation is too bad to find a prestigious job. To improve his image he becomes a coach in a correctional school for troubled teenagers. He assumes it is the easiest way to get his normal life back. But the job is a nightmare. The teenagers are rebellious, and solving their problems Anton becomes the teens’ only real friend. And now he is not sure where he belongs and what his real life is.
Vorobyev: “People think that Russians are wild and crazy. They’re right. And now imagine Russian teenagers that are 10 times wilder. This young adult comedy is about international teenage problems with Russian color.”
“Portrait of the Unknown”
Producers: Violetta Krechetova (AdressFilm), Artem Vasiliev (Metrafilms)
Director: Sergey Osipyan
Moscow. 1974. Oleg is an actor in his 40s; he has a tired look, a charming smile and a deep velvet voice. His artistic career didn’t work out, so he records radio plays about a spy from the USSR who lives in the U.S. Suddenly the radio play gets shut down, and his wife kicks Oleg out. These rather ordinary events lead to an unexpected development of events in Oleg’s life and in the lives of the people around him—artists, commoners, officials, Soviet and American spies.
Krechetova: “‘Portrait of the Unknown’ is a movie about the ‘70s made by a team of filmmakers who were either not yet even born or were kids at the time. But this did not prevent them from carefully and clearly recreating that time and its characters, expressing the romance of that era—a time full of hope. It is a story of an actor who has been sinking into a spy character without realizing how many traps he has set for himself. This stylish creative work of a professional team is inspired by our director and a wonderful script.”
Producers: Alexander Kessel, Galina Sytsko, Ruslan Sorokin, Eugeny Yaschuk (Sputnik Vostok Production)
Director: Julia Kolesnik
“Elsa’s Land” is a dramatic story of the first love that hits two people over 70. In fact, it is a “Romeo and Juliet”-type of story, as children and grandchildren from both sides think of such love as inappropriate. Elsa, the main character, has German origins that make her very different from everybody else, especially in the remote Russian region where the story is set. This defines her whole life. The film is based on a very popular contemporary play with the same title by Yaroslava Pulinovich. The director, Julia Kolesnik, was Oscar-nominated for her short film “Let’s Go for a Walk.”
Kessel: “We finished the production of this full feature in February, shortly before the lockdown. We expected originally to have the world premiere at the Beijing Film Fest at the end of April, then in Karlovy Vary. I am sure ‘Elsa’s Land’ is a perfect post-lockdown movie for a family reunion, something touching and sensitive to watch together with the older relatives, especially elderly parents, the biggest risk group of the pandemic.”