Konstantin Konovalov’s Odessa-set biopic about the Soviet film director Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Oleksandr Dovzhenko.Odessa-Debut, has already found co-producers in Finland and Argentina.

After first being pitched by Konovalov and his producer Volodymyr Filippov at last month’s Moscow Business Square co-production forum, the project, which is set in the Odessa of the mid-1920s when Dovzhenko was preparing to shoot his first feature The Diplomatic Pouch, was also presented in the programme of Odessa’s Film Industry Office on Thursday.

Born in today’s Ukraine, Dovzhenko - whose films include Earth and Arsenal - is on a par with such legendary early Soviet film-makers as Eisenstein and Pudovkin. The Dovzhenko Film Studios in Kiev were given his name after his death in 1956.

Speaking exclusively to Screen Daily, Konovalov confirmed that Rodrigo Vidal of Argentina’s Cinema 7 Films and Tony Valla of Finland’s Post Control are set to be partners in this project.

Producer Filippov of  Kiev-based InsightMedia Producing Centre explained that the € 2.3m production will also have the Odessa Film Studio as a co-producer.

During the pitching in Odessa, it was suggested that since Dovzhenko is also revered in Russia, it might therefore also make sense to look for a Russian co-producer.

The theatrical release in Ukraine for Konovalov’s film has already been secured by B&H Distribution, who is also attached as the distributor for another historical drama, Smiling! Eddie Rosner’s Comeback, about the Polish-Jewish jazz trumpeter who was called the ¨White Armstrong¨ by European jazz buffs in the 1930s and 40s.

The film’s Kiev-based production company Fresh Production is looking for a Polish film-maker to direct the film.

This year’s line-up of 11 projects included a new feature by Georgian film-maker Nana Djordjadze (Red Angels, set in the post-war Soviet Union) and Oleksandr Stekolenko’s feature debut, the psychological thriller Misty In Places, set in Poland in 1980 before the imposition of the state of emergency.

Unrealistic expectations

As Western European guests observed in Odessa, some of the pitchers would have benefited from a crash-course in pitching to be able to present their projects in a clear and succint form. Clearly, the role of a producer is still relatively new for Ukraine whose film industry had been state run until the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Moreover, some of the producers and directors had rather unrealistic expectations of the universality of their stories as well as the international market potential. They didn’t seem to be aware that interested producers from Western Europe would often need up to a year to pass through the funding applications procedures before they could concretely commit financing to a project.

Indeed, it wasn’t always clear why certain projects should be for theatrical release when they might have been better targeted at the small screen.

In addition, producers from the region will have to greater care not to list talent as being involved in a particular project when the respective actor has not even be approached: the word ‘interest’ can cover a multitude of sins.

Meanwhile, the festival’s budgetary restraints this year meant that there were also fewer potential co-producers or other partners in the audience, which was largely made up of students from the parallel Summer Film School.

Way forward for Ukrainian cinema

Promoting a greater awareness of the business practices operating in the international film market is thus hopefully one of the goals which the Ukrainian State Film Agency will set itself when it is reactivated at some point in the future.

Although the funder’s activities are currently in limbo,  Stanislav Prytula, the agency’s departmental head of state regulation and implementation of film projects, was in Odessa to outline priorities for the future development of the Ukrainian film industry.

These included

* educational programmes to foster a new generation of Ukrainian film-makers

* the need to convince the Ukrainian government to finance membership to the pan-European support fund Eurimages. ¨Just having Eurimages in the [film’s] titles will open doors of festivals in the world,¨ Prytula suggested

* the creation of a distribution network in Ukraine for domstic films to show them in places where they were never seen

* transparent democratic procedures in the fund’s decisions

Prytula also suggested that Ukraine could be inspired to follow Georgia’s example with its pilot project of bringing film classics into schools as part of a film education initiative.

Exemption of festival screenings from anti-obscenity bill

Meanwhile, Russia’s Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky has now indicated that changes are likely to be made to the recent anti-obscenity bill.

These changes would exempt the country’s film festivals from having to provide evidence of a distribution certificate before they are able to show domestic films in their programmes.

Festival organisers across the Russian Federation - from Moscow International Film Festival’s president Nikita Mikhalkov to Kinotavr’s programme director Sitora Alieva - had protested at this requirement, and there had been talk of the festival scene being ¨liquidated¨ by this measure.

In an interview with Gazeta.ru, Alieva said that the new demands would ¨introduce chaos, confusion and absolute stagnation in the festival movement,” while an unnamed festival director spoke of  ¨a veiled attempt at censorship.¨

Medinsky announced in Moscow this week that revisions would be made to the controversial clauses for submission to the Russian parliament in the autumn.

In the meantime, Russian producers will still have to apply for a distribution certificate before their films can be shown at one of the Federation’s summer film festivals, but the certificate would be issued with the minimum of bureaucracy, according to Vyacheslav Telnov, head of the cinematography department at the Ministry of Culture.