Extensive Focus on Russia
at 2014 Film Festival
The 37th International Film Festival in Göteborg turns its gaze eastward.
The Russian film tradition is one of the world’s most famous and Russia is currently one of the most interesting countries for film.
“We have a large and broad Russian film program that is both artistically strong and that takes up current events in Russia. Several of the films touch upon subjects about the distribution of the country’s resources and the restrictions on freedom of speech,” says Marit Kapla, artistic director at the Göteborg International Film Festival.
Both renowned filmmakers and a younger generation with new perspectives will be included in the festival’s Russian focus. The film program also mirrors the contemporary political and social situation in Russia, as well as events that have recently drawn much attention, such as the trial against the festival’s poster artists, Pussy Riot, and the coming Winter Olympics in Sochi. The program includes documentaries and fictional films, both of which have their finger on the pulse of Russian society and which provide nuanced perspectives on the world’s largest country. Circa 20 films will be shown as part of the Russian focus. In addition, a number of current directors and actors will visit the 37th film festival. A selection of the program’s Russian films can be found below.
The Geographer Drank His Globe Away
GEOGRAF GLOBUS PROPIL (Russia 2013)
Director: Alexander Veledinskiy
One of the most successful Russian directors of the past few years—among both audiences and critics—portrays a changing male role in an often hilarious and whimsical way. Victor studied to become a biologist, but desperately seeks work, as anything, and becomes a geography teacher. This prototype of Russian antihero seeks comfort in the bottle in order to make it through the everyday struggle with rowdy school kids, a wife who wants to get a divorce and an old friend who means well, but who tends to cause trouble when he drops by. Konstatin Khabenskiy from Night Watch (2004) shines in the lead role as the likable loser Victor.
Hard To Be a God
RUDNO BYT BOGOM (Russia 2013)
Director: Aleksej German, Svetlana Karmelita and Aleksej German Jr.
One of Russia’s most headstrong directors, Aleksey German, died earlier this year and never got to see the premiere of the film he had been working on for 30 years. Instead, his wife and steady collaborator, Svetlana Karmelita, and his son, the director Aleksey German Jr., completed this three-hour long, black-and-white filmatization of a novel by the Strugatsky brothers. The same authors also inspired Tarkovsky’s film Stalker. Like that film, this is also a science fiction movie. A researcher travels to the planet Arkanar to lead the inhabitants toward a more developed society. German creates his own world on the big screen, a muddy, dirty version of the Middle Ages, without the glimmer of shining armor and fair maidens. A film guaranteeing a unique film-experience, offering abundant parallels to the failures of contemporary civilization.
INTIMNYE MESTA (Russia 2013)
Director: Natasja Merkulova and Alexej Chupov
In present day Moscow, people outwardly live as if nothing is missing: a successful photographer, a zealous civil servant and a married couple who’ve recently moved into their dream apartment. But in their most intimate situations they reveal the deficiencies and shortcomings that they’ve learned to hide. Feature film debut by the director Natasha Merkulova and her co-director Aleksey Chupov, depicting well-to-do middle class people who more or less desperately try to come to terms with the fact that happiness (and a satisfying sex life) cannot be bought. Acting, imagery and music elegantly work together in this entertaining and sometimes tense film with delightful black humor.
Pussy Versus Putin
PUSSY VERSUS PUTIN (Russia 2013)
Director: Gogol's Wives
In August 2012, three members from the Russian art collective Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for hooliganism, after having performed their regime-critical punk prayer at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Yekaterina Samutsevich was given probation, but Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokina are still in prison. The filmmakers have closely followed Pussy Riot from their first performance with colorful balaclavas to their time behind bars. This tractably observant documentary unobtrusively lets the audience form their own perception of the world-famous rebels’ struggle against an authoritarian government. Pussy Riot is this year’s poster artist for the Göteborg International Film Festival.
Gogol's wives are coming to Göteborg to present the film.
ZIMNY PUT (Russia 2013)
Director: Sergej Taramaev and Ljuba Lvovas
Before an important singing test for the opera education, the teacher prescribes sleep, walks and Schubert. Lost, desperate and eager to rebel, Erik does the exact opposite (except Schubert) and spends his nights together with a disillusioned, older colleague and entirely too much vodka. Erik has a boyfriend, but when he runs into the roughneck Lyokha (the star Evgeniy Tkachuk), passion of an entirely different caliber arises. Their short, but intense friendship resounds with suppressed sexuality and creates a wintry Russian Brokeback Mountain—controversial after Russia recently passed a law against “homosexual propaganda directed at children." Moscow’s frozen winter nights are beautifully captured by Mikhail Krichman, photographer for the director of The Return, Andrey Zvyagintsev.
Sergey Taramaev and Lyuba Lvovas are coming to Göteborg to present the film.
PUTIN'S GAMES (Germany/Israel/Austria, 2013)
Director: Alexander Gentelev
The bill for the Winter Olympics usually comes to $€1.6 million. The Olympics in Sochi will cost over €34 million. The high price tag is due to Vladimir Putin having deciding to put ski tracks and downhill skiing jumps at a seaside resort with a subtropical climate. Alexander Gentelev follows the foolhardy, megalomaniacal project hemmed by corruption, scandals and environmental destruction. We get to meet both political figures, like the mayor of Sochi and the chairman of Russia’s Olympic committee, but also the poor people who’ve been kicked out of their houses in order to create space for Putin’s propaganda on ice.
Alexander Gentelev is coming to Göteborg to present the film.