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Red Square Screenings boasts Pussy Riot and Jason Flemyng projects

The punk feminist band Pussy Riot [pictured’] and UK actor Jason Flemyng might seem unlikely bedfellows, but not for those attending the first edition of the Red Square Screenings (RSS) (Oct 15-19) where they appeared in ‘works in progress’ presented to 100 industry professionals.

Footage of Pussy Riot and their supporters was presented as a part of filmmaker Eugeniy Mitta and Alexander Shein’s Anthology of Contemporary Art documentary series as well as in the Russian-Estonian co-production The Term by Pavel Kostamarov, Aleksandr Rastorguev and Alexey Pivovarov.

Ironically, this material was screened in one of the legendary GUM shopping mall’s cinemas just a stone’s throw away from the Kremlin.

Meanwhile, Jason Flemyng and fellow UK actor Charles Dance were among the international cast in Oleg Stepchenko’s $ 23m 3D adventure film Viy which was produced by Marins Group Entertainment with partners from the Czech Republic, Germany and Ukraine.

The Russian ‘works in progress’ also included Pavel Parkhomenko’s biopic of the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, Gagarin. First In Space. Producer Oleg Kapanets of Kremlin Films explained some more scenes have to be shot, including one on Red Square, and he was negotiating with a US major for a Russian theatrical release on more than 1,000 prints on April 12, 2013.

International buyers were also shown footage of Anton Megerdichev’s $ 12m The Metro, which was billed as the first Russian disaster movie and is scheduled to be released on January 24, 2013 on 1,500 prints; and around 20 minutes from Wizart Animation’s 3D animated film The Snow Queen which has been produced in a Russian and English version and will be presented in its final cut at the forthcoming AFM.

Speaking exclusively to ScreenDaily during the Screenings, RSS creative director Anton Mazurov said: “The main interest of the Screenings’ international guests was on the day of works in progress, which was a real marathon with a total 32 projects. Maybe this was too much for one day and we would spread it next time over two days.”

“There were five or six projects which attracted particular attention such as the documentaries Alexander Shein’s Zero Object about Timur Novikov in the St Petersburg arts scene in the 80s and 90s and the Pussy Riot project of today, the collaborative project The Term and Pipeline by our classic documentary filmmaker Vitaly Mansky.”

“The films that stood out among the dramas included White Tiger – of especial interest as well as being controversial for the buyers from China – and Shopping Tour which is an unexpected low budget genre film from Russia. One sees this kind of film from the UK, Germany or the US, but it’s the first time to see this sort of film coming from Russia. We don’t really have genre films in Russia except for war films and comedies,” Mazurov observed, adding that “another two films – Short Stories and Convoy – caught the buyers’ attention during the Kinotavr Day on Wednesday.”

“For the future, I think that the Red Square Screenings could expand to include films from other CIS countries,” he suggested. “Russian cinema will continue to be the focus, but the Screenings can become an important marketing platform for this larger territory which doesn’t have any significant international promotion at the moment.”

In addition, RSS executive director Yevgeny Gindilis pointed out that “it is very important for us that the Marché du Film - Festival de Cannes will act as the co-organiser of RSS starting from next year. This will allow us to really give a boost to the integration of our cinematography into international distribution.”

Marché du Film’s executive director Jerome Paillard came to Moscow with colleagues Julie Bergeron and Myriam Arab to announce the collaboration officially with the Russia Cinema Fund’s director Sergei Tolstikov.

Speaking to Screen, Paillard suggested that this collaboration could help the circulation of Russian films abroad: “what we saw with Ventana Sur [in Buenos Aires] is that, after three or four years, it really had an impact on the presence of Latin American films. Of course, at the same time, this agreement gives us the opportunity to develop a much closer relationship with Russian producers and the industry in general so that they then have the feeling that they are known in Cannes. I know that Cannes can seem very unwielding for many smaller producers and distributors, but this would change if they then know members of our team. In two or three years’ time, the success of the event here in Moscow could have the impact that there are more Russians in Cannes.”

Initial feedback on RSS from participants was very encouraging. “The Red Square Screenings are a huge step forward in presenting Russian Films to foreign buyers,” according to Justus Peter of Berlin-based distributor Pandastorm Entertainment which had previously acquired home entertainment and TV rights for the Kazakh historical epic Myn Bala – Warriors on the Steppe. “The atmosphere is positive and professional, plus there’s understanding from the Russian sales agents concerning the specific needs of our territory. We are looking forward to distributing more Russian films in German-speaking Europe.”

French sales agent Laurent Danieliou of Rezo Films agreed that the first edition was “a great success because it is well organised and we were able to see all the films and ‘works in progress’ that are available. It was a great opportunity to meet Russian producers and for the producers to  present their films to international distributors. I was also impressed by the fact that an hour after the screening of my film The Horde, I received an email with the scanned list of the people attending the screening. That’s something I have never experienced at other markets.”

Meanwhile, Stelios Ziannis of German sales agent Aktis Film International remarked that he had been “positively surprised by the high standard of the Russian production of many projects in the ‘Works in Progress’. We had good meetings with Russian producers and are speaking about concrete projects. My conclusion: a very good beginning which should be continued.”

Similarly, producer-director Andrey Khvostov, who presented the market premiere of his feature debut Saint Petersburg at RSS, desribed the event as a “very effective platform for someone seeking foreign distribution for a Russian film. We, for example, had a great experience directly talking to potential buyers, sales agents and festival programmers, and it will help us finalize our strategy for promoting Saint Petersburg.

“Because our film is almost completely in English, such an event suited it perfectly, and I’m very happy to see it taking place,” he continued. “We’ve received some very positive feedbacks and are looking forward to continuing negotiations with potential partners that we’ve found here.”

The romantic drama Saint Petersburg, starring UK newcomer Terry Sweeney with Nadezhda Tolubeeva and Konstantin Malyshev, was produced by Khvostov’s Bear In Mind Films with Fyodor Druzin and Joanna Bence’s UK-based Curb Denizen Productions, and features an original score by The Last Station composer Sergei Yevtushenko.

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