Russian director Vladlena Sandu’s upcoming TV series “Identification,” the pilot episode for which plays Tuesday at Roskino virtual market, Key Buyers Event, starts with four naked female bodies, each with the same tattoo on their neck, found by police in a refrigerator truck on the border between Russia and Finland.
Cut to three years later in Moscow where a young woman named Valeria who is an immigrant from the Kyrgyz Republic, and a recent convert to Islam, is arrested. Under her hijab she hides the same tattoo as the murder victims.
Co-written by Sandu with screenwriter Nikita Ikonnikov, “Identification” – which screened as a pilot at Series Mania last year and more recently at Berlinale Series – is a crime drama spiced up with thriller elements centered around the acceptance of “immigrants and national minorities in contemporary megalopolises,” says the show’s producer Evgeniy Nikishov, co-chief of Moscow’s Premier Studios. He notes that for most immigrants: “presumption of innocence is an unaffordable luxury.”
Sandu has a personal connection to “Identification,” having fled the war in Chechnya in the 1990s and resettled in Russia. She previously depicted the psychological trauma and life of a refugee in her short doc “Holy God” that won several prizes on the festival circuit including Rotterdam.
“Breaking the cycle of violence” is a key theme in the series, she points out. The viewer follows Valeria through her journey which raises several questions: “How do you break the cycle of violence? How do we stop harming each other? How could we help someone stuck in this vicious cycle?,” she says.
Interestingly the series also has an empathic aspect for actor Lena Tronina who plays “Identification” protag Valeria. She is from Kazakhstan from where she immigrated first to Russia and subsequently to Germany, where she landed a part in German TV series “Tatort.”
“The very first time I saw Lena was on a video she made in Kazakhstan and sent to Moscow,” says Sandu, who was impressed. She notes that “Lena (has) also faced the issues” that the show explores.
Premier Studios is planning a Spring 2021 delivery date for the eight-episode “Identification.”
Premier Studios co-chief Valeriy Fedorovich says the project has been “90% shot.” They are in intensive post-production with plans to shoot the remaining 10% this fall.
Shooting took place in Moscow and its vicinity “including very vivid locations of old-fashioned markets,” he said.
Now the producers are seeking either a global streaming platform or a world sales company to board “Identification” and bring it to the international market.
Premier Studios, which was founded in 2018, make feature films and TV series that run the gamut from commercial/genre to more director-driven fare. Their recent standout titles include post-apocalyptic thriller “The Blackout,” directed by Egor Baranov; the upcoming series “Dead Mountain,” being sold by Beta Film; and eerily anticipatory miniseries “The Outbreak,” about a virus affecting the human respiratory system devastating Moscow that premiered at Canneseries in 2019.