Ministry of Culture floats lottery idea to fund films

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Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky said he believes the problem of funding Russian films can be effectively solved through conducting special lotteries, where the main prizes could be dining with Russian stars, as well as roles in films and television series. "I am sure that such lotteries would enjoy great success and help to sponsor the national cinema,” he stated.

The Russian Culture Ministry annually allocates money for Russian film shoots. The country’s studios usually cannot make films without state support, simply because in recent decades almost all Russian films have been unprofitable.

This year authorities target to allocate six billion rubles (US$80 million) within such support, which is slightly less than in 2015. According to Medinsky, this amount of money is insufficient and most likely will not be increased, given the harsh economic situation in the country and tight budget conditions. “This is the main reason why starting this year we will have to look for alternative sources of funding of filmmaking,” he said.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reacted to the proposal by jokingly suggesting offering the winners of the lottery dinners with Medinsky instead of with movie stars. Medinsky is quite a controversial figure in Russia, as he has made a number of extraordinary statements in recent years. In particular, in 2013 he said he believed that the Russian people have gone through all the catastrophes of the 20th century because they probably have an extra chromosome. Social-media users reminded the minister that the presence of unpaired chromosomes is a sign of Down syndrome.

Mikhalkov Proposes Alternative to Oscars

The Union of Cinematographers of Russia has accused the U.S. Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences of politicizing the Oscars. The head of the organization, filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov, pledged within the next several years to create an analog of the Oscars, which would be focused on the Eurasia region and perhaps attract BRIC countries as well as Japan, Korea and other nations.

"It is millions and millions of viewers,” Mikhalkov said. “I believe that we must create a Eurasian Academy of Movies. And it would be launched not in opposition to the West, but because the Eurasian countries have another mentality and there are different films here. It cannot be driven into the frame of the Oscars, as these films are original and self-sufficient and usually have their own rich background. This is why Eurasian countries should have their own academy.”

At the same time, Mikhalkov stated that Russian filmmakers would continue to participate in the Oscar race despite its alleged politicization.

Earlier this year, Mikhalkov was awarded a Golden Eagle nomination “for the contribution to world cinema.” However, Mikhalkov is the main boss of the Golden Eagles and decides who gets the award, so in fact he simply awarded himself the nomination. 

Mikhalkov received the Oscar for best foreign-language film in 1995 for Burnt by the Sun. In 2015, his feature Sunstroke was the Russian designee for the Oscars, but was not included in the short list. The director claimed that this happened due to political reasons.

Spacewalk Drama Launches in May

In May, Russia plans to begin production on Time of Firsts, a feature film about the first spacewalk. The filmmakers say the project is inspired by the success of Hollywood space dramas, but this would be a real challenge for the country’s producers in terms of technological components.

“Over the past few years on the big screen, there have been a lot of movies about space: Gravity, Interstellar and The Martian,” explained film director Dmitry Kiselev. “All of them are beautiful stories that have no background in real fact and real happenings. Time of Firsts is not fiction and not fantasy.”

It is noteworthy that a great many details about the problems and challenges of the flight of Alexei Leonov in 1965 have been classified for decades, so the filmmakers had to fight for the right to learn some facts about the trip.

“The most difficult special effect in the movie is an illusion of weightlessness,” stated camera operator Vladimir Basta. "It is much easier to draw space or Earth in the window than to create a realistic effect of the vacuum. Russian actors Yevgeny Mironov and Konstantin Khabensky will be shot in real spacesuits with a weight of 30 kg each.”

For the movie, Russian designers have built a complete copy of the ship Voskhod-2, which makes the film already unique for the Russian cinema industry, as previous Russian films have not attempted a replica of that scale.