Russian cinema revives Christmas comedies


Russian producer and director Timur Bekmambetov, best known for shooting several films in Hollywood including the Russian-American action crime thriller Wanted, is aiming to revive the genre of so-called Christmas comedies that were very popular among Russians during the time of the Soviet Union.

Bekmambetov’s trilogy called Elki has won the support of leading Russian stand-up comedians. So far it’s been warmly received by the audience and demonstrated good box office. The first two films, released in 2010 and 2011 on the eve of New Year celebrations, collected US$49 million on a total budget of US$11 million.

In order to increase attention for the third part of the series, due for release on Dec. 26, 2014, its directors conducted a tour of 11 Russian cities, offering a chance for anybody who wants to become a part of the movie’s crowd scenes. Pundits feel it is likely that this move will have a positive impact on the film’s box office.

"We, the filmmakers, all live in Moscow and pay very little attention to our audience, while as we know more than 70% of our viewers—especially of the Elki movies—live in the provincial towns,” Bekmambetov observed.

It is interesting that the different Russian cities have been represented in the old Russian Christmas comedies—for example, in The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Banya, the plot is built around the fact that the main characters have two absolutely identical addresses, but in different cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg.

A Ban on Alcohol Consumption in Movies?
Nikolai Gerasimenko, first deputy chairman of the Duma Committee on Health, called on lawmakers to ban scenes of alcohol consumption in Russian films, claiming that these depictions are harmful to children. According to the official, many Russian films use alcohol drinking as an important part of the plot; he cited in particular the recent release The Geographer Drunk Away the Globe.

"Children have already started drinking at age 11, and so we have to restrict the showing of…alcohol consumption in cinema and television," Gerasimenko declared.

"Just think about how it shows our society: interns drink, police drink and everyone else drinks even during working hours. And this way we create an image that drinking is fine.”

He continued, “For example, we already consider as normal the film The Geographer Drunk Away the Globe, where the teacher is drinking with his students. In Peculiarities of National Hunting and Peculiarities of National Fishing, the characters are drinking several boxes of vodka. We should do something about this.”

The deputy chairman claimed that producers of alcohol and cigarettes spend a lot of money in the media and movies to finance such scenes and create among the population “the illusion that all our citizens are extremely fond of drink and it is in fact a distinctive feature of our nation.”

Gerasimenko believes that business should bear the social responsibility and that limited restrictions will not resolve the problem. He feels it is necessary to completely prohibit the promotion of the use of alcoholic beverages in movies.

The premiere of The Geographer Drunk Away the Globe, with Konstantin Khabensky in the title role, was held in June at the Russian festival Kinotavr, where the movie won the main prize. The film's protagonist, Permian geography teacher Victor Sluzhkin, is a charming loser and an alcoholic who takes his class on a camping trip. In November, the film also won the main prize of the festival of Russian cinema in Honfleur Normandy in northwestern France.

Russia Readies First 3D Horror Film
According to Russian experts, one of the most potentially successful Russian films in 2014 may be Wii, a horror film based on the novel by Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. This is the first horror movie in the post-Soviet Union era shot in 3D.

Director Oleg Stepchenko has been preparing Wii for eight years. Now the premiere is planned for January 2014. The shooting was done in the Czech Republic, on the same soundstages where The Chronicles of Narnia and The Brothers Grimm were filmed. The elaborate sound design is the creation of one of the top sound mixers in Hollywood, Oscar-winner Bob Beemer.

The plot of the film centers on English traveler Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng), who mounts an expedition to the Ukraine. Passing Transylvania and breaking through the Carpathian Mountains, he finds himself in a lost village of impenetrable forests. The people living there are not like any the famed traveler has met before. Surrounded by a deep moat, they seek to protect themselves from evil spirits and a mystic creature called Wii.