Editorial: Letter From Moscow

The high season of film festivals is over for the year 2001, and after a long ‘low’ of international starts at Russian film festivals, the Moscow Film Festival (June 2001) could boast with the presence of Jack Nicholson, while the Sochi International Film Festival (June 2001) presented Jean-Claude van Damme and Ornella Muti.

The fate of Russian films at international festivals, however, leaves much to be desired: there was no Russian entry in the Moscow Film Festival, and none in the main competition in Venice (September 2001). Sergei Bodrov’s (sr) The Quickie, made in the US, was shown in competition in Moscow, and Vladimir Mashkov duly received the ‘Best Actor’ award. Sergei Bodrov’s (jr) film Sisters was shown in the ‘Cinema del presente’ section in Venice. The Ukrainian-made film Minor People by Kira Muratova received special screenings in Berlin and Wiesbaden. Finally, Sokurov’s Taurus was shown in Cannes (May 2001). The programme of the London Film Festival (November 2001) reflects the absence of interesting and good movies from Russia, with its selection of only two Russian films.

Russian filmmakers are becoming more oriented towards producing and catering for audiences: many talented young filmmakers have withdrawn to television serials. Kirill Serebrenikov has completed Rostov-Papa for NTV and is starting a new project in the autumn; in the serial Bandits’ Petersburg (‘Banditskii Peterburg’) the third series (‘Krakh antibiotiki’) is currently showing; the new talent Alexander Veledinsky (whose short film Just the Two of Us was shown also at Cannes) is shooting a television serial; theatre director Oleg Babitsky is also making television serials; Nijole Adomenaite has finished Hunt on Cinderella (Okhota na zolushku); Alla Surikova and Sergei Snezhkin are both working on television films or serials. Television appears as a safer producer than independent production companies. Audience surveys confirm this trend: in the ratings for television serials Russian serials currently rank highest, while the ratings for feature films are dominated by foreign films.

On 16 November 2001 the V Congress of the Filmmakers’ Union will be held in Moscow. The Union’s Chairman, Nikita Mikhalkov, will account for the work achieved in the years after his election (1997/8): he has almost managed to sell the FU’s property in Krasnaya Pakhra and get the house of veterans in Bolshevo refurbished and repaired. Yet the issue over the property of Cinema Centre remains undecided between the Confederation (the union of former Soviet republics’ FUs) and the Russian FU: both parties claim the ownership for the huge estate in central Moscow. Moreover, the Congress will have to debate its role in the future of Russia’s film industry.

In memoriam: Savva Kulish, who died in June and Grigory Chukhrai, who died in November 2001.

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