Russian cinemas champion 'Paddington'

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Russia In Review

The federal government of Russia was accused of biased actions against foreign films after the Culture Ministry tried to postpone the premiere of Paddington 2 by two weeks.

The Ministry ruled to delay the screening license for the movie one day before it was slated to be released on cinema screens, with no official explanation except obscure wording that “there was another movie scheduled to be released on the same date.”

In fact, Jan. 18—the original date when Paddington 2 was scheduled to appear on big screens—was also the premiere date for five other movies in Russia. But the Russian cinema business has no doubt that it was the historical action film The Scythian, produced by local major STB, that the Culture Ministry cared so much about.

The Scythian is the kind of patriotic film the Culture Ministry is very proud of. The move was clearly aimed to remove a dangerous competitor from the schedule and bolster the box office for a movie of Russian origin produced with state money.

This hasn’t been confirmed officially although, commenting on the scandal around Paddington 2, Ministry head Vladimir Medinsky claimed that he “doesn’t give a darn about Hollywood movies” and that it’s only Russian movies he looks after.

The Association of Russian Cinema Owners, in turn, blamed the Ministry for an “unprecedented overreach” in the domestic cinema market. Russian cinemas reportedly had to repay around US$12,000 to viewers who had purchased the tickets for Paddington 2.

However, just like in the movie, the bear has triumphed against all odds, as on the wave of the scandal the Ministry had no choice but to reschedule the film for Jan. 20.

Russian Actresses Praise Sexual Harassment

Two Russian actresses have made controversial statements expressing sympathy toward Harvey Weinstein and other men accused of sexual harassment in Hollywood.

Speaking to the local press, popular Russian actress Lubov Tolkalina said that, in her opinion, sexual harassment is a “wonderful thing, for real” and that harassment is the “exact reason why men exist in the world.”

Tolkalina also suggested that women making allegations against Weinstein “acted not in a girl’s way,” adding that “if an actress eventually gets a role, it doesn’t matter how it happened.”

Another Russian actress, Agniya Kuznetsova, suggested that to avoid becoming victims of sexual harassment, actresses “should not act like prostitutes.” Based on these statements, Russian social-media users have created series of Internet memes, jokingly suggesting Weinstein “urgently flee to Russia, where his attitude would meet the full understanding of some particular women.”

At the same time, the majority of Russian actors are bothered by the sexual-harassment scandal. Russian actor Alexander Nevsky, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, said he felt really sad he hadn’t punched Weinstein “in his freaking face” when he met him in the United States. Irina Bezrukova, another Russian actress, revealed that she once was subjected to sexual harassment by a Russian film director, but she quickly solved the problem by “punching that guy in his face.”

Russia Seeks Foreign Attention for Patriotic Films

Russian film directors are enhancing their efforts to bring their movies to foreign markets, seeking recognition if not commercial success.

Fedor Bondarchuk managed to bring his sci-fi blockbuster Attraction, with a storyline about an alien invasion of downtown Moscow, to 3D IMAX screens in the U.K. Attraction is considered one of the most commercially successful Russian movies of 2017, and although its makers don’t expect to see huge box office overseas, the fact that it made it to foreign markets is considered a first step on the way to international acknowledgement of the Russian cinema industry, according to Bondarchuk.

It is also likely that Russia will be able to arrange successful international promotion for the sports drama Going Vertical, the new all-time box-office champion in Russia, with $33.4 million tallied in only three weeks.

The movie, however, was made with the money allocated by the Cinema Fund, an organization controlled by the Culture Ministry, and foreign viewers may notice some patriotic colors in the script. Going Vertical focuses on the victory of the Soviet basketball team at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where the U.S. team was defeated for the first time in 36 years. Giving the current political situation, the contest between Russians and Americans has attracted Russian viewers, but the patriotic theme would hardly intrigue anyone abroad, according to Russian pundits.

Another movie shot in Russia with clear political content is Crimea, which has received only negative reviews from foreign viewers. Although Attraction at first glance seems to be a different kind of film, the review from The Times also found it packed with elements of propaganda. Which leads to a reasonable question—is this the kind of recognition Russian directors really want to achieve internationally?