The international development of new Russian cinema is struggling to overcome the shadow of the great tradition of Soviet arthouse, according to leading Russian critic and FIPRESCI president Andrei Plakhov.

Speaking at an Academia-Rossica roundtable at BAFTA in London, Plakhov warned there was a tendency to stereotype Russian film-making based on a giant arthouse past including Eisenstein and Tarkovsky.

'We need to break that image,' he said, 'so little new talent gets through since it is perennially overshadowed by the Soviet heavyweights'.

Plakhov said 'arthouse cinema is still Russia's hope,' and would never disappear, but he also suggested that commercial cinema had to become more available and widespread.

'At the moment Russian films are mainly perceived as part of the ancillary arthouse niche,' but they need to deviate from the archetypal 'soul, snow and Siberian expanse' model in order to move forward, concluded Plakhov.

Irina Smolko, a young Moscow producer, agreed. 'Russian themes are overworked, we should make more films with universal subjects.'

She went on to explain that 'Russophone films are always associated with arthouse cinema. This is why I plan to shoot my next film in English.'

The subtitles issue is certainly one to be considered, but it is mainly the content of Russian films that needs to change in order to make them more popular internationally, according to Kirill Razlogov, Director of the Russian Institute of Culturology.

He also bemoaned the negative portrayal of Russia in foreign films, containing what he regarded as cliched themes such as mafia, prostitution, political villains, desolate Siberia and Central Asia. Razlogov hoped these would eventually become less prevalent.

He stressed the importance of trans-nationality, crediting Timur Bekmambetov as 'the ultimate trans-national director'. Razlogov believed the international success Bekmambetov had with Nightwatch and Daywatch was only a start, and he was hopeful more directors would follow suit.

So how can both Russia and the global community speed up the development of Russia's already growing film industry'

All of those present agreed that the development of a cinematic infrastructure was the key to success. Domestically, Irina Smolko suggested that 'the government must help universities, such as VGIK.' She explained that film departments were poorly equipped. 'It is particularly hard to get decent sound,' said Smolko.

Globally, Sarah McKenzie, Senior Executive of Export Development at the UK Film Council, said inter-government reciprocity was the solution.

She gave an example of the Film Council's recent UK-Korea distributional arrangements, wherein the Korean Film Council would put $200 000 into the promotion of UK films in Korea and vice versa. However, McKenzie admitted that such schemes might not always work, as some countries may see these arrangements as a potential threat to their own markets.

Tom Luddy, co-founder of the Telluride Film Festival, suggested that festivals were not merely a bridge for distributors, and that they could also benefit Russian sales companies. He explained that smaller festivals in America had to pay international sales companies around $2000 per screening, providing an opportunity for sales companies to make money.

Generally, everyone agreed that festival participation was the way forward. They also felt that events like Rossica's Russian Film Festival were the perfect platforms for Russia to exhibit its best products, be it arthouse or commercial cinema.

Once the films are out there, the infrastructure development will follow, and the Russian market will broaden and become more internationally viable.