Russia may limit number of foreign releases

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The State Duma (Russian Parliament) is once more considering a reduction in the number of foreign films in Russian cinemas, according to Robert Schlegel, deputy of the country's ruling party United Russia and author of the bill. The draft of the bill proposes that the number of films from the U.S. and Europe should take up no more than 50% of total screen time.

Russian film director Stanislav Govorukhin, speaking in Parliament in support of the bill, urged the introduction of a special quota on the Russian cinema—not lower than 25% of total screen time—as well as the creation of a quota for showing of Asian cinema, mainly from China, Korea and Vietnam.

According to different studies, Hollywood films currently occupy from 75% to 95% of all Russian screen time, depending on the region and cinemas. If the bill is passed, distributors and cinemas are projected to lose up to 30% of visitors, while a large number of U.S. movies simply will not be shown in Russia.

"We basically show American films that promote stereotypes, national interests and values of the United States. Many of these movies are shoddy. Russia is able to produce films, which will be more interesting to its audience,” Schlegel declared.

Deputy Economic Development Minister Stanislav Voskresensky also supports the bill, claiming, "Of course, our cinema is not able to compete with Avatar or Mission: Impossible, but it can compete with movies of the so-called B category. Choosing between Bad Teacher and some domestic comedies, distributors must be motivated to choose Russian movies."

As the same time, most of the Russian distributors condemned the initiative of State Duma, noting that it would be contrary to the principles of freedom of choice of the viewer and normal competition.

Highly Anticipated Sunstroke Is a Flop
One of the most promising and anticipated Russian movies of 2014, Sunstroke by Nikita Mikhalkov, failed at the box office, with a total gross of 68 million rubles (US$1.5 million). Official information indicates that the cost of the film’s production amounted to one billion rubles (US$ 24 million).

The film recounts the dramatic love between a Russian imperial army officer and a beautiful stranger at the beginning of the 20th century, which is not destined to come to fruition because of the beginning of civil war in the country. The protagonist is forced to join the White Guard to fight against the Communists, and doomed to lose everything.

Only one in ten films by Russian directors earns box office that exceeds the cost of its production. According to a market study by Forbes, in the period of 1994 to 2012, 1,100 Russian movies were created at a total cost US$785 million and with total box office US$166 million.

Pundits say that main reasons that Sunstroke failed were the low quality of the movie and bad marketing strategy. The international filmmaking community also did not appreciate the film, according to Nikita Mikhalkov himself.

"I offered this film to the International Film Festival in Venice—in competition or simply as information display. I’m not sure that level of movie is so bad that it was impossible to show in Venice. But the selection committee did not even answer me, just as if there was nothing we proposed.”

Cybernatural Pioneers New Style
The horror film Cybernatural has adopted a new style which can create a new genre of movie, in the opinion of successful Russian film director Timur Bekmambetov.

Cybernatural filmed in the style of found footage, with one important difference. All events are seen on computer screens, as the heroes talk to each other on Skype throughout the film. The plot revolves around Internet harassment of a girl arranged by six of her classmates, which results in the girl’s suicide. Year later they decide to create an online conference, but things start to go badly when a seventh unknown member connects.

"I dreamed about this film for many years. Nobody believed that during 80 minutes a viewer can anxiously watch what is happening on your computer screen. Over the years we have developed a unique new film language, which I think a new generation of filmmakers will use to communicate with the audience,” Bekmambetov declares. At the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, the movie won the Audience Award for “Most Innovative Film.”

The budget of Cybernatural was only US$500,000. Bekmambetov explains that it was not easy to create the movie, since all the movements of the cursor, minimizing of windows on the monitor and the filling of the chatlines were filmed separately. Then these tracks were repeatedly redrawn to create a sense of the living monitor.