ÉCU has five Russian indie films in its Official Selection 2013, so it’s time to have look at the independent film scene of the biggest country in the world which is spread across Europe and Asia and includes many different nationalities.
A picture of Russian independent cinema is somehow connected with the picture of a lonely man standing on a big field full of snow. ÉCU collected five facts about Russian independent cinema that differentiate it from indie film scenes of other countries.
1.Until the beginning of the 1980s there were no independent films at all. Cinema was completely a state-controlled domain, under strict censorship and very culture-specific; the Soviet government used the film industry for communist propaganda of Soviet values and way of life as well as in the memory of the Second World War. In the 80s in the time of perestroika and glasnost censorship became powerless. The pioneer of the independent cinema in Russia became a famous filmmaker in this period Alexander Sokurov whose work was part of and received awards at different international film festivals like Cannes, Venice and Berlinale.
2. Independent cinema in Russia always has to struggle. The government participates one way or another in the production and distribution of all Russian films, supporting only blockbusters and big-budget films. The Russian film industry also depends on the economical situation of the country. Independent filmmakers can create films only with their own funds. Even though there are private individuals and companies who fund, there is no regional funding system like in Germany, for example.
3. Russian independent filmmakers are on the wrong system regarding cinema. In the west countries it is important to receive the attention of a certain audience; in Russia it is more important to please the supporters and people who sponsor the film. Also, usually the filmmakers that achieve some recognition and are noticed have two ways to develop: either they enter the big film industry (which is not independent any more) or stay in the independent underground and, consequently, their films will be shown only on small screens and for a limited audience.
4. Independent filmmakers are creative when it comes to the financing of their films. Social networks play quite big roles in finding the audience and financial aid. One filmmaker didn’t receive any grants from the government or cultural authorities and he sponsored his film by courtesy of his audience: he asked on his page in a Russian social network if people would like to see more of the film and if the answer was positive, he collected donations to further produce his film. Step by step this film was completed. Another opportunity to gain the money, at least for the next film, is to participate in as many film festivals as possible. Fortunately Russian indies are pretty popular abroad and will usually be celebrateded at big international indie film festivals.
5. Documentaries in Russia have the roughest ride. The films with themes against Putin’s regime will never have a possibility to be distributed. Also, they won’t be used to support the regime, Russian government is not interested in using them in their affairs. So the Russian state stopped financing documentary cinema completely.
ÉCU is excited to screen so many Russian indies! Check out European Dramatic Shorts The Cart (dir. Natasha Novik) and We Are Not Slaves (dir.Ainur Askarov), Music Video Brazzaville – Boeing (dir. Natalya Kudryashova, Semyon Galperin), European Experimental Film Hermeneutics (dir. Alexei Dmitriev) and Comedy Film Cabbagemincer (dir. Vadim Viner, Dovran Khalhodjaev).