Production in Russia has continued apace throughout much of the coronavirus pandemic, and a broad slate of titles launching at the virtual edition of this year’s European Film Market — from high-concept period dramas to psychological thrillers to horror pics — will look to tap into international interest in the fast-growing industry. “For us, it’s business as usual — boosting that potential,” says Vadim Vereshchagin, CEO of Central Partnership.
During EFM, Vereshchagin’s production and distribution outfit will launch sales on a raft of titles including “The World Champion,” a drama based on the legendary 1978 chess match between Soviet world champion Anatoly Karpov and the dissident Viktor Korchnoi. The co-production with Nikita Mikhalkov’s Studio TriTe and pubcaster Russia-1 is directed by Alexey Sidorov, who helmed the WWII blockbuster “T-34.”
Set in the noir atmosphere of 1920s Russia, “December” follows the last days of Sergey Yesenin, a famous Russian poet and lover of the American dancer Isadora Duncan. Pic is co-produced by Yellow, Black and White and START. The WWII survival drama “The Pilot. A Battle for Survival” centers on a fighter pilot who crash lands in a remote forest clearing after a daring air battle and has to find his way back to friendly territory. The film is set to premiere in May 2021.
Following on the worldwide success of their Netflix original series “To the Lake,” 1-2-3 Production will offer market screenings of two episodes of “The Big Game,” a hit survival drama co-produced with Amedia Production and slated for an August 2021 release. Also in the company’s EFM line-up is “Dreams of Alice,” a teen drama with supernatural elements centered on a young protagonist plotting her escape from a mysterious northern town. It’s one of 12 titles to receive the newly created Berlinale Series Market Selects label, highlighting series with high commercial potential.
The selection points to a wider appetite for Russian content, according to Artem Vasilyev, of Metrafilms. “The demand for quality films and quality series is there,” he says. Metrafilms arrives at EFM with “No Looking Back” (pictured), a black comedy about a family of three generations of warring women, from director Kirill Sokolov (“Why Don’t You Just Die!”). Also on the company’s slate is “Convenience Store,” a debut feature about modern-day slavery from Michael Borodin, whose short “Normal” screened in Cannes’ Critics Week.
Metrafilms is also prepping “Aspiration,” the English-language debut of Michael Idov (“The Humorist”), about four middle-aged American rockers holed up in an Ontario farmhouse to record their final album. The co-production with Outrageous Films & Vortex Media (Canada) and The Media Company (France) is slated to shoot in Canada later this year.
Distribution powerhouse Planeta Inform is presenting “The Ex,” a new horror film from the producers of the smash hit “The Bride,” slated for a March release, and “We,” a sci-fi movie based on the world’s first dystopian novel, which comes from the producers of international hits “Guardians” and “Coma.” The company will also be presenting “Wings Over Berlin,” a WWII actioner about the first air assault of Berlin conducted by the Soviet air forces in 1941, which is currently in production.
All Media is launching sales on “Fib the Truth,” a psychological thriller slated for a fall 2021 release about a couple whose romantic weekend turns into a cruel and deadly game after an unexpected interruption. The company will also be selling Renata Litvinova’s fantasy drama “The North Wind,” fresh off its Rotterdam world premiere, and “The Nose or the Conspiracy of Mavericks,” a stop-motion animated feature that will be released locally in March.
Mirsand is selling producer-director Timur Bekmambetov’s WWII feature, “V2. Escape From Hell,” which will be released in Russian cinemas by Sony Pictures in April, while a vertical, smartphone-ready format will be released digitally. Bekmambetov’s new thriller, “Blue Whale,” is also available in both feature film and series format.
Lastly, Bubble Studios will continue to sell “Major Grom and the Plague Doctor,” a $10 million adaptation of the hit comic-book franchise from Bubble Comics, to be released by Disney Studios in Russia on April 1.