Films by Todd Solondz, Ralph Fiennes and Andrei Konchalovsky as well as an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s White Nights, starring Daniel Brühl, are among 12 projects to be supported by Russia’s Ministry of Culture this year.

Solondz, Fiennes and Bekmambetov are set to join director colleagues Avdotya Smirnova, Bakur Bakuradze, Cedric Klapisch, Igor Voloshin, Ilmar Raag and Alexandre Rockwell in shooting episodes of the omnibus film Petersburg: A Category Of Feelings.

The project, which is to be produced by Lenfilm Studio in cooperation with Sergey Selyanov’s St Petersburg-based production powerhouse CTB Company, will invite the filmmakers to present their views of the “Venice of the North” through emotions or qualities whose first letters make up the city’s name: Pleasure, Effort, Trust, Envy, Repose, Shrewdness, Bravery, Uncertainty, Refuge and Glee.

The idea for the project originates from Selyanov, and one of the episodes will be directed by actor-director-producer Fedor Bondarchuk who is also serving as the artistic director for the film.

Bondarchuk, chairman of the board at Lenfilm since 2012, reportedly plans to shoot his episode this autumn.

This project comes less than a year after news about another omnibus film with Saint Petersburg as the common thread, Saint Petersburg, I Love You, had been exclusively revealed to Screen Daily.

Although this project’s producers had indicated at the time that they would want to work with French producer Emmanuel Benbihy, the mastermind behind the Cities of Love franchise, he is yet to hear from them.

In 2010, an ¨unofficial¨ City of Love omnibus had been made in Moscow with 18 five-minute episodes directed by such filmmakers as Georgi Paradjanov, Murad Ibragimbekov, Irakli Kvirikadze and Artem Mikhalkov.

Ironically, Bondarchuk acted in one of the episodes of Moscow, I Love You.

Dostoyevsky meets Daniel Brühl

Backing has also been recommended for a contemporary reworking of Dostoyevsky’s White Nights by director Tatyana Voronetskaya.

The Saint Petersburg-set RUB 88m production already has Germany’s Daniel Brühl and the German-Dutch actress Henriette Confurius, one of the sisters in Dominik Graf’s Berlinale 2014 film Beloved Sisters, attached, and a Russian actor will be cast in the role of the main hero, the Dreamer.

Michael Haneke’s “regular” producer, Veit Heiduschka of Vienna-based Wega-Film is to co-produce. 

Previous adaptations of White Nights have been made by such filmmakers as Luchino Visconti, Robert Bresson and James Gray.

Shortlisted projects

The Ministry’s second public pitching for auteur and experimental film projects this year saw 80 entries being whittled down to 41 projects which were subsequently pitched to a committee of experts in Moscow last week.

Among the other projects approved for subsidy from the Ministry were:

  • Alexander Kott’s “film requiem” Spitak, to be produced by Telesto-Film, about the aftermath of the deadly earthquake in Spitak in December 1988. Production has already begun on the $ 5m project which has received support from Armenia’s Ministry of Culture and the Rossiya TV channel.

    (Another project about the earthquake, The Story of A Quake, isbeing planned as a $5m action-drama by Sarik Andreasyan for Mars Media.)

  • Elena Hazanova’s Puppet Syndrome, based on Dina Rubina’s bestselling novel, starring Yevgeny Mironov (also a co-producer of the film) and Chulpan Khamatova. The RUB 66m psychological drama-thriller by Trety Rym will be lensed by the Kazakh DoP Aziz Zhambakiyev who won a Silver Bear last year for his camerawork on Harmony Lessons. Puppet Syndrome was pitched at Odessa’s Industry Forum last summer.

  • Actor Gosha Kutsenko’s directorial debut Vrach (Doctor) which he has also written, will produce and also play the central figure of the neurosurgeon Melnikov. Kutsenko’s past acting credits include Nightwatch, Daywatch, and The Inhabited Island.

  • “Russia’s Brad Pitt” Danil Kozlovsky is attached to Konstantin Khudyakov’s next feature Motylek which also has Alena Babenko (A Driver For Vera) in the female lead.

  • Alexander Borisov’s RUB 80m historical drama Mary’s Constellation (Sozvezdiye Mary), which will be produced by distributor-producer Karo Production for a release date of February 23, 2016 by Karo Premiere. RUB 50m subsidy is being requested from the Ministry of Culture.

War quartet

The Second World War – known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War – is the backdrop for four projects recommended by the experts’ committee for funding:

  • Fedor Popov’s RUB 150m war drama Passageway Of Immortality, which has applied for RUB 35m from the Ministry, set during the Leningrad Blockade of 1941-1943. Preproduction is now underway for the Stella production after three years of preparation.

  • Veteran Russian director Andrey Konchalovsky’s Viki about Princess Vera Obolenskaya who organised an anti-Nazi organisation among Russian emigrés in France, was arrested by the Gestapo in 1943 and executed in Berlin in 1944.

    Konchalovsky’s wife Yulia Vysotskaya will play the title role, while French and German actors will be cast as a Frenchman and Wehrmacht officer. Konchalovsky’s own production company has set a budget for Viki at RUB 80m, with a RUB 50m subsidy application submitted to the Ministry. Most of the film’s shoot will be at interiors in Russia, with some exteriors at locations in France.

  • Alexey Muradov’s 1942-set drama Predsedatl (Chairman), to be produced by the Ilya Muromets studio

  • Actor-director Kirill Belevich’s Edinichka (Unit), recounting events in 1944, to be produced Mars Media Entertainment

Meanwhile, a further three projects were recommended to apply to the Russian Cinema Fund (Fond Kino) since this funding body concentrates on projects with a more commercial angle.

Projects not selected to receive a subsidy recommendation at this session included “enfant terrible” Valeria Gai Germanika’s next feature Maiskye Lenty and Enjoy Movies production of Artem Aksenenko’s Onegin, based on Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. (ends)