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Series Mania: Oscar-Nominated Producer Alexander Rodnyansky on Crime Thriller ‘Frozen Land’

Twice Oscar-nominated producer Alexander Rodnyansky is to present the Russian crime drama “Frozen Land” at the Co-Pro Pitching Sessions at Series Mania (March 25 to April 7), which is an all-digital affair this year. Rodnyansky spoke to Variety about the show.

The eight-part series, written by Sergey Kaluzhanov (pictured right) and directed by Darya Zhuk (pictured left), is based on the real-life reign of terror inflicted by a serial rapist and murderer in Khakassia, a remote region in Siberia, Russia.

An important element of the story is the indifference shown by the police to the first rape victims, before the rapist becomes a murderer. However, the main protagonist isn’t a policeman, a victim or the killer, but his girlfriend, Stella, a single mother.

“She led a rather ordinary and bleak life before meeting Dmitry Lebed, the serial killer at the center of ‘Frozen Land,’ whom she sees as the love of her life. She never believed that he was capable of doing something as horrible as raping and murdering women,” Rodnyansky says.

“Her motivation is her desire for a ‘normal life,’ for a family, for happiness. This is what drives her and over the course of eight episodes we will see how it leads to denial, how it changed her perception of reality. How tragically she continues to deceive herself even in light of overwhelming evidence of unspeakable crimes, and how she finally comes to a horrific realization that ruins her life forever.”

Rodnyansky explains why Zhuk was the right choice for the series. “Darya is a director with an absolutely unique background for Russian industry: she comes from Belorussia, she graduated from Harvard University and she studied in Columbia. While Darya’s first film ‘Crystal Swan’ was a much more lighthearted and bittersweet story than ‘Frozen Land,’ what drew me was not only her obvious directorial talent, but also her ability to tell a story with a female protagonist in a delicate and sincere way.

“We don’t want to make ‘Frozen Land’ just another serial killer series about a man inflicting horrible violence on women, it is important for us to make this story tonally different and try and give voice to the victims rather than exploit their sufferings. Darya is obviously someone who can do that very well.”

Speaking about his choice of Kaluzhanov as the writer Rodnyansky says: “Sergey is known in the industry as a very competent thriller writer who worked on a number of very popular television series, and he was another obvious choice for us. But in ‘Frozen Land’ instead of constructing a very familiar genre story out of building blocks that are familiar to the audience, he created something very different.

“’Frozen Land’ is based on a real story and Sergey put a very unusual protagonist into the center of it: a woman in love with a serial killer. This is not a procedural or a whodunit, while the audience may think that they already know all the answers, ‘Frozen Land’ is a gripping thriller and a psychological drama that builds towards a very dramatic and in many ways unexpected conclusion.”

The series is produced by Non-Stop Production, controlled by Rodnyansky. The company’s projects include “Elena” by Andrey Zvyagintsev, Un Certain Regard prize winner at the Cannes Film Festival, Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan,” best script winner at Cannes, and Golden Globe and Academy Award nominated for best foreign-language film, and Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless,” Jury Prize winner at Cannes, Golden Globe and Academy Award nominated for best foreign-language film, as well as Kantemir Balagov’s “Beanpole,” best director prizewinner in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard program, and FIPRESCI prizewinner.

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