Friday, December 24, 2004

Russian cinema about to explode

Russia has always had a unique and powerful cinema, starting with one of the early masters, Eisenstein. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the country went through a long curve of importing largely American TV and movies. But last year, Russia produced some 120 features - half the number in France, for example, but still a significant number. Consistent investment over the past 10 years has led to the creation of new studios and facilities. Unlike the rest of Europe, Russian cinema has started to focus very quickly on popular cinema. The most recent example is "Night Watch", which has broken all previous box office records and is Russia's candidate for a Best Foreign Language Oscar. The rights have been bought by Fox Searchlight, with talks of an English-language version.

Speaking to Screen International, producer Konstantin Ernst is upbeat about the future: "I see the Russian market developing along the lines of the Japanese market, rather than the European model. Like Japan, 30-40% of the market will be locally-produced. The Russian economy is growing and it is going to continue to grow. Russian audiences want to see big budget Russian films and this is the kind of film we are going to see produced. For five years Russian audiences wanted to see American TV programmes but after seven years we began to produce our own. Now we are going to see the same with films."


jett said...

The potential is there but 99.9 % of the population still can't afford a movie ticket. The other problem is that the country is so mafia controlled I can see where it would stifle both the growth of the industry and the creativity.

Michael Leahy said...

I don't know much specifically about mob involvement in Russian movies, but it's clear that movies have always made ready partners with people with expendable cash. Will this influence the style of movies being made? Good question, and I hope someone who knows more about the influence of the Mafia in Italian and US movies could provide an answer.

I did hear about a reality show that featured and was financed by Russian mobsters.

jett said...

Russia is different from most countries. I mean every place has some mob activity but in Russia you can't buy a hamburger without the mob getting a piece of the action. It is one of the most mob controlled countries around.

Michael Leahy said...

I just noticed that the upocming Rotterdam Film Festival will feature a special section on Russian film. Looks interesting. Check it at