War drama ‘Stalingrad’ breaks box-office records
Already at the end of October, a mere three weeks after its official release, the Russian war drama Stalingrad by Fyodor Bondarchuk has claimed the title of the most successful Russian film ever with a total earning of US$40 million. The film left behind the last record-holder, Legend No. 17, which took in US$39 million at the box office. Experts said the success of Stalingrad could be explained by the fact that this is the first Russian picture released not only in 3D but in IMAX format.
It is noteworthy that war films always have been popular among Russians. This movie tells about one of the bloodiest battles of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. The action takes place in 1942 on a Volga River battlefront on the outskirts of Stalingrad occupied by Nazi troops, where several Russian soldiers heroically held defensive positions. Interestingly, the film was made with the direct support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"During preparation of this film, it was important for us to know the opinion of Putin about the project, so we were seeking his understanding,” Bondarchuk has commented. “He understood and appreciated the potential of this project for young audiences. In addition, it was already entirely his idea—he offered to interview the surviving veterans of the Battle of Stalingrad and then use this material in the script.”
Stalingrad was recently nominated by Russia for the upcoming Academy Award Foreign-Language Film competition.
Tax Laws Hurt Filmmaking
Russian moviemakers have officially asked the Members of the Parliament to change tax regulations affecting the industry. Experts including famous foreign producers say these regulations seriously cut the volume of investments in the film business.
Dmitry Rudovsky, CEO of Art Pictures Studio, argued that film companies in Russia experience serious problems with advance payments for the budget of a film. As an example, the potential revenue from distribution may be designated for December while the start of distribution itself doesn’t happen until April of the next year. So for four and a half months, a company sees no revenue even though taxes are already being imposed.
Currently, the Russian filmmaking industry is provided no grace periods for investment money. The Ministry of Finance has admitted that this situation is extremely unfavorable for companies, but the authorities don’t know how to change the tax laws for one industry without changing all tax laws. Russian law currently doesn’t provide such an option.
Russian filmmakers in their request are citing the words of the famous Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer. When he visited Russia and was told about the economic model of the Russian film industry, representatives of the Russian companies asked him if he could work under such conditions. He replied, "It would be unprofitable for me to spend my time and efforts if I was not sure that I would get a considerable profit.” Russian directors and producers, however, have no choice but to spend their time and effort under their restrictions.
Defense Ministry to Start Making Films
The Russian Defense Ministry plans to set up its own motion picture studio, and in the near future to begin making films on themes connected with the army and military operations, according to Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu.
The first steps in these directions have already been taken. "Regarding the initiative of moviemaking, here all the necessary decisions have already been taken. Already this year, we will create what is called a motion picture studio or production company, while most likely we will create both of them. Of course, we will focus on making documentaries and feature films, and perhaps animated films.”
The Ministry intends to attract successful and well-known Russian directors for their projects. Officials don’t exclude the possibility that some foreign filmmakers may also be invited to participate.
The Minister of Defense said this initiative is needed to raise the prestige of the army in the eyes of general audiences. The motion pictures the Ministry produces will create a “spirit of patriotism in the younger generation,” in their view.
“The main task of the project is to return to the beginnings of our history and to initiate the patriotic education of young people via cinema,” Shoigu added.