Russian film industry struggles to survive

Russia celebrates the Day of National Cinema this Saturday. Sadly, as it turns out, there is not much to celebrate.

­A recent poll shows that one-fifth of movie goers in Russia –-18 per cent – share a negative attitude towards films that come with the tag “made in Russia”.

The most active part of the audience – youngsters between 18 and 24 years of age – either do not watch Russian films at all or happen to turn up at a Russian premiere once in a lifetime.

Even worse is that domestic films keep losing audiences month after month, year by year, while Hollywood blockbusters are gaining momentum, owing their popularity to simple factors.

“The main torrent of films that end up getting on the big screen these days fall into four or five categories,” one of Russia’s most important directors, Aleksey German, explains.

“The lead character is either seeking revenge for somebody or is looking for the money. There are just as many films about a bad cop and a good cop; films about somebody who saves a city or the whole world; last but not least, there are movies about fighting. And after this we still wonder about the origin of teenage cruelty. Our moviegoers have been hooked on the needle, [addicted] to popcorn,” he laments.

While American adventures dominate the Russian market, 42 per cent of moviegoers in Russia do not care about the origin of films they choose to watch, which means the fight between domestic and foreign films over filmgoers is settled by way of tough competition. Only the strongest survive.

The creator of Twenty Days Without War says there is a way out though, and sets the French practice of film distribution as a good example.

“The producer who chooses to release American blockbusters in France has to pay higher taxes than the one who shows French productions,” he says.

“Why not implement a similar system in Russia?” a number of film buffs suggest.

Another maverick director, the author of Russian Ark, Aleksandr Sokurov, agrees with his big-league counterpart. Both say that National Cinema Day is not the occasion for rejoicing.

“How can one celebrate when the situation is so humiliating? There’s no distribution of Russian films in Russia,” Sokurov complained.

As things stand now, some 11 per cent of moviegoers, mostly over 45 years of age, prefer Russian films against all other, expressing optimism that their quality is getting better and better.

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