Timur Bekmambetov’s first outing as a director since his Hollywood film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sees him going back in time again to the beginning of the First World War at the end of 1914.

Yolki 1914 is the fourth instalment of Bekmambetov’s New Year hit comedy franchise Yolki, which his production-distribution company Bazelevs launched in 2010.

Bekmambetov directed the first Yolki (aka The Six Degrees Of Celebration), which took $26m at the box office in the CIS territories in 2010/11.

Since then, Bekmambetov has only served as the producer on the following two Yolki films.

The first sequel Yolki 2012 – which posted $30m at the CIS box office in 2011/12 – took place on New Year’s Eve in 11 cities from small regional towns to Saint Petersburg and Moscow, and was directed by Dmitry Kiselev, Alexander Kott, Oksana Bychkova and others.

Kiselev, Kott, Alexander Karpilovsky and Olga Kharina directed the episodes of the third film Yolki 2014 which was released on Dec 26, 2013 has generated more than $37m in the CIS so far.

For the first time in the series, the action moved outside of Russia to include scenes in New York and London, and included storylines involving animals facing almost unbearable challenges.

Other directors

Bekmambetov, who is directing two episodes of Yolki 1914, is being joined in the director’s chair by Kiselev, Kott and Karpilovsky and – in a radical change of genre from his last feature film, the police corruption thriller The Major  - by filmmaker Yury Bykov shooting the other five episodes.

Bykov’s episode will reportedly be based on a story by the 19th century writer Nikolai Leskov, The Wild Beast, which will feature the bear Stepan who has previously appeared in such films as Alexey Uchitel’s The Edge and Andrey Proshkin’s drama Orda.

While the previous films in the franchise had seen the action shifting rapidly from one Russian city to another on New Year’s Eve, Yolki 1914 sees the story travelling back in time by a century to life in the cities and provinces of pre-Revolutionary Russia and at the front during the First World War.

The heroes of the first three films – Boris (Ivan Urgant) and Evgeny (Sergey Svetlakov) – will reprise their roles in the new film which follows the adventures of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers a century ago, along with Alexander Domogarov and Alexander Golovin from Yolki 2014 among others.

Yolki 1914 will be released by Bazelevs Distribution in Russia on Dec 25, 2014.

In addition, Bazelevs is planning an Oct 30 release for a spin-off from Yolki 3, Yolki Lokhmatye (Shaggy Yolki), featuring canine sweethearts Pirate and Maltese.

Debutants backed by development fund

Two first-time filmmakers’ projects have been awarded development grants totalling €30,000 by the private Saint Petersburg-based Point of View (POV) Film Fund.

A jury of experts selected Anton Bilzho’s Dream-Fish, “a black comedy with melodrama elements” about a humble, average guy falling in love with a dream-fish. The film will be produced by Ethno Fund’s Vladislav Ketkovich and Maria Gavrilova.

The jury also chose Timofey Zhalnin’s psychological drama Disappearance, based on real events which took place when a young couple became lost in the Siberian taiga, to be produced by former Berlinale Talent Campus participant Ivan Lopatin’s Moscow-based company Leevandia Entertainment.

The Film Fund’s jury, which had made its first selection last September, reported that there was “a significant increase in the quality of the projects submitted [for the second call]”.

The jury comprised Sergey Selyanov (CTB Film Company), Artyom Vasiliev (Metrafilms, Konstantinos Kontovrakis (Herectic, Cinemart), Riina Sildos (Amrion, Baltic Event) and Jean-Christophe Simon (Films Boutique).