KinoKultura: Issue 38 (2012)

Fifteen Realities of Russian Cinema (Kinotavr 2012)

By Nancy Condee (U of Pittsburgh)

“Kinotavr is the reality of Russian cinema”: this is the bold signature claim of the world’s largest national film festival, held in Sochi each year. The claim is, in fact, as accurate as one might reasonably hope for in the hypertrophic world of festival cinema. Kinotavr, dating from 1990, when Mark Rudinshtein’s non-governmental company Moscow Suburbs first organized the Festival of Unbought Cinema in nearby Podol’sk, was later renamed and moved to Sochi, where it became the primary touchstone for contemporary Russian film. Changing hands in 2005, first to media leaders Aleksandr Rodnianskii and Igor’ Tolstunov, then to Rodnianskii alone, Kinotavr survived the lean years of the mid-1990s to flourish, supported by a board that has included major figures in the financial and media industries.[1] Kinotavr’s artistic success is due in large measure to the efforts of program director Sitora Alieva, who takes seriously the festival’s principle task: to form a viewer who is able to watch a range of films; in her own words, to “constitute the auditorium.”[2]

happens to meWhat could be said about Kinotavr’s 2012 “constitution”? Several elements stand out. First is the intriguing question of genre selection: which genres happen to be included this year? Which are absent? This “counterpoint” of generic presence and absence is an enduringly vexed puzzle: to what extent is that counterpoint the result of successful film submissions and to what extent is it a symptom of the industry’s emergent direction?

Kinotavr 2012 offered fifteen new works: three melodramas, two comedies, two psychological dramas, three almanacs, one adaptation, one New Year’s film, two (what I will describe as) quasi-documentary dramas, and one author’s film. Strikingly absent in this inventory are several traditionally dominant genres—the action film, the historical costume drama, the crime drama—all of which had figured among the submissions, but were not included in the final selection. Absent, too, from this year’s choice were the documentary (in its “pure” form), the musical, and the horror film. Even the author’s film—historically a hallmark of the Russian festival circuit (and Russia’s entry into other global festivals)—was represented by only a single film. By contrast to these lacunae, however, the festival selection included three film-almanacs, to which I pay brief attention below, marking a significant turn in the festival competition.

state of emergencyA second global feature of Kinotavr 2012 concerned the debut names. Unlike previous years (and unlike early history, when Kinotavr was best known as a debut event), the 2012 festival had few debuts.[3] Before we leap to the conclusion that Russian cinema is—yet again!—dying, we might consider the opposite argument. The industry’s economic situation indeed continues to be perilous; principal among its vulnerabilities are piracy, theatrical attendance, and a serious shortage of support personnel (especially in such specialized professions as location scout and trailer production). Yet as far as “young blood” is concerned, several Kinotavr 2012 filmmakers were finally able to celebrate a “second debut,” returning to filmmaking from other professions (such as television and advertising), or completing a film after a prolonged hiatus. And in fact, the quantity of debuts more generally is slowly increasing, in part due to efforts by such directors as Aleksei Uchitel’, whose VGIK workshop has recently produced as many as fifteen debuts in a single year.[4] While few graduates from a Directing workshop can nowadays be assured a sustained career as a director, the field can currently boast of notable successes: Uchitel’’s recent student Taisiia Igumentseva, who shot the diploma short Road to… (Doroga na…, 2011), was invited to the 2012 Cannes International Film Festival, where her work won the main prize in the Cinéfondation competition before going on to Kinotavr 2012 to win a Special Prize in Future Shorts and a diploma in the Kinotavr Shorts competition. The Ministry of Culture, which takes lead responsibilities for debut funding, routinely supports six to ten debut projects a year at approximately 70 per cent of their budget, giving the debut filmmaker a reasonable chance of raising the remaining 30 per cent from other sources.[5] The relative health of the industry is further witnessed by at least four Kinotavr entries produced entirely without governmental subsidies.[6] And so the larger picture is in no way indicative of a debut crisis. Rather, the very category of “debut” is adjusting to economic conditions—filmmakers who are not strictly debut, but also not yet reliably launched. It is indeed, as the festival suggests, “the reality of Russian cinema.” 

expiationA third governing feature of Kinotavr 2012 was the jury. If in prior years the festival strove to represent a range of film professions—director, scriptwriter, DoP, producer, actress—2012 was a director’s jury: headed by Vladimir Khotinenko, it included Bakur Bakuradze, Vera Glagoleva, Aleksandr Kott, Anna Melikian, Aleksei Fedorchenko, and Nikolai Khomeriki. Professional skepticism (in the chitchat between screenings) questioned whether directors’ expertise was competent to evaluate, for example, the technical nuances of DoP work. In the end, however, no one disputed the jury’s Cinematography award to the immensely talented Alisher Khamidkhodzhaev for his work in Vasilii Sigarev’s Living [Zhit’, 2011].[7]

These elements—the genre range, the status of debuts, the jury profile—set this festival apart from earlier years, and provided a rich background for the evaluation of the competition. In the coming months, KinoKultura will provide reviews of the festival’s major films. For a complete list of prizes and diplomas, the reader should consult the festival website. Given these resources, I will not provide a comprehensive overview here, but rather cluster the fifteen films alongside comments governed by some cautious speculation on where the industry may be moving. Kinotavr was, in total, a sumptuous feast, but its many dishes require of us a strong stomach and good digestion.

Amuse-Gueule: Khlebnikov and Smirnova

till night do us part Two films drew particular attention from cinema devotees. The first, Boris Khlebnikov’s satiric comedy Till Night Do Us Part (Poka noch’ ne razluchit, 2012), was chosen as the festival’s opening film. Described by its director as “a light story and many stars,”[8] the film depicts the Moscow beau monde at its favorite restaurant (filmed at the Most Restaurant, but intended to be the Pushkin Restaurant). Its clientele includes recognizable figures from the Russian metropolitan glitterati, including musicians Sergei Shnurov and Maksim Semeliak, football commentator Vasilii Utkin, director Vasilii Barkhatov, and editor Alena Doletskaia.  A cameo scene between actress Anna Mikhalkova and director Avdot’ia Smirnova is the highlight of this witty, self-ironizing film. The director insists that the film is a kind of vaudeville story with no pretense to reality; film critic Diliara Tasbulatova has aptly described it as a kind of orchestre grotesque, as one celebrity after the other plays a signature riff.[9]

kokokoWhichever explanatory image one chooses, Khlebnikov has given us a world utterly different from the provincial expanses we remember from his Free Floating (Svobodnoe plavanie, 2006); or the desolate urban wastelands of his Help Gone Mad (Sumashchedshaia pomoshch’, 2009); or the open countryside of his earlier Roads to Koktebel’ (Koktebel’, 2003), co-directed with Aleksei Popogrebskii. And yet, in this new film’s claustrophobic kitchen scenes, we once again encounter Khlebnikov’s stock actors Evgenii Sytyi and Aleksandr Iatsenko,[10] as if to remind us that the filmmaker’s established world is not so far removed after all. In Aleksandr Rodionov’s quick-paced script, the repartee shifts back and forth from the chic restaurant hall to its kitchen recesses, where parallel dramas play out in comedic alternation. Pavel Kostomarov’s delicate camerawork tracks the film’s accelerating tempo as it culminates in a public melee that leaves the privileged setting gratifyingly topsy-turvy, with no pretense of resolution. As the Opening Night film (followed, of course, by the Festival banquet), Khlebnikov’s new work functioned as a kind of meta-commentary on festival life, all the more so since both Anna Mikhalkova and Avdot’ia Smirnova were guests of the festival. The film is a departure from Khlebnikov’s earlier meditative style and it will therefore all the more interesting to look forward to his next effort, Long Happy Life (Dolgaia shchastlivaia zhizn’), a kind of High Noon à la russe, scheduled for release in autumn 2012.

Avdot’ia Smirnova’s 2012 Kokoko offers the talents of two enormously gifted actresses, Anna Mikhalkova and Iana Troianova, who were justly (and jointly) awarded Best Actress at the festival’s closing ceremony. The plot is a variant on the intelligentsia and the people: Liza (Mikhalkova) works at the St. Petersburg Kunstkammer Museum; Vika (Troianova) is a Ekaterinburg nightclub manager. At the outset of the film, when their belongings are stolen on the Moscow-Petersburg night train, the two women strike up an unlikely friendship that produces both witty social commentary and a rare example of a women’s buddy film. The robust talents of Smirnova are at their best in this film, her best work so far.

Two Kinds of Dark Meat

For those who prefer brooding cinema, Kinotavr 2012 offered two varieties of dark meat: Vasilii Sigarev’s Living and Aleksei Mizgirev’s The Convoy (Konvoi, 2012), two very different examples of post-Balabanov noir: the dark labyrinth of the human soul, the irresistible impulse to humiliate those nearby; the unstable boundaries between faith and hallucination, between meekness and masochism, between mourning and dementia.

livingSigarev’s film intertwines a common theme of irretrievable loss into three apparently unrelated stories: a newly married couple; a mother who seeks to regain custody of her young twin daughters; a boy who keenly misses his father. These three narratives form the basis of a brutally uncomfortable cinema. Completed almost in time for the previous year’s Kinotavr competition, Sigarev’s film was entered instead into the 2012 Rotterdam International Film Festival’s competition program, and subsequently screened at Wiesbaden’s GoEast, where it won the Golden Lily. In a cinematic style compatible with his Wolfy (Volchok, 2009), Living pushes the boundaries of the bearable, provoking extreme reactions from its cinema audience. Despite its evident talent, the festival critics were not surprised that the film was passed over for the Grand Prix in favor of a more conventionally redemptive cinema. The jury nevertheless awarded Sigarev Best Director for his work and recognized Khamidkhodzhaev for his camerawork.

Aleksei Mizgirev’s film may be comparable in its brutal psychological pitch, but is structurally simpler: a single narrative line, compounded by flashback, recounts the story of an army captain charged with delivering a deserter and stolen cash to the military court. The evolving relationship between the captain and deserter is set against a backdrop of urban criminality and violence. Here, the nexus of army/police/prison is a familiar kind of narrative pas-de-trois, known to us historically from the work of Vadim Abdrashitov and Aleksei Balabanov.[11] As different as these two older directors may be (visually and philosophically), their universe of damaged and confused men deserves a separate chapter in the history of Russian cinema; its pages would surely also include such master directors as Vasilii Shukshin and Aleksandr Rogozhkin.

While the biographical provenances of Sigarev and Mizgarev sharply diverge—Sigarev emerges out the Ekaterinburg tradition of theatre director Nikolai Koliada,[12] whereas Mizgirev is a former student of Abdrashitov’s workshop—their more immediate preoccupations in contemporary cinema might also be seen as a settling of accounts with Balabanov’s oeuvre, where the category of social horror in his Cargo 200 (Gruz 200, 2007) and his Stoker (Kochegar, 2010) is both difficult to surpass and impossible to forget. 

A Ternion of Almanacs

The major innovation highlighted at Kinotavr this year was the almanac—the film comprised of short, self-sufficient works.[13] The 2012 festival provided three comparable examples of the single director’s segmented film: Vsevolod Benigsеn’s State of Emergency (Avariinoe sostoianie, 2011), Dmitrii Fiks’s White Moor, or Three Stories about My Neighbors (Belyi mavr, ili tri istorii o moikh sosedakh, 2012), and Mikhail Segal’s Short Stories (Rasskazy, 2012).[14]

short storiesThe almanac form is, of course, not new to Russian cinema: Kira Muratova’s Three Stories (Tri istorii, 1997) is an ancient example; Sergei Mokritskii’s Four Ages of Love (Chetyre vozrasta liubvi, 2008) and Sergei Loban’s Chapiteau Show (Shapito shou, 2010) are more recent ones.  The phenomenon is to some extent driven by the industry itself: the almanac might be seen as an ideal adaptation to the quixotic conditions of the region’s contemporary filmmaking, where the financial and logistical uncertainties might imperil production on a full-length feature film. Unlike this more conventional mode, the segmented film might be easily re-arranged, lengthened, or cut within narrative parts, so as to provide a maximally flexible solution (even at a late stage of production) for the director, the scriptwriter, and the producer. Its inner logic allows for multiple cameramen, a complete change of cast, and even several directors. By extension, of course, a more interesting question is whether the almanac signals a different aesthetic altogether, requiring of the viewer a more active role in establishing narrative links (all the more daunting when it involves, if you will permit the jargon, meta-generic sense-making) and—in a broader historical trajectory—the redefined relationship of short films to feature films.

It is reasonable to expect—in the current economic climate—that the almanac is an enormously productive adjustment to production conditions and that we are likely to encounter more examples in the near future. Indeed, through this interpretive lens, we might watch very differently such upcoming feature films as the six novellas of Aleksei German, Jr.’s Under Electric Clouds (Pod elektricheskimi oblakami, 2013); the seven stories of Ivan Vyrypaev’s Delhi Dance (Tanets Deli, 2013); and the 25 heroines (whose names all begin with “O”) of Aleksei Fedorchenko’s in Heavenly Wives of the Field Mari (Nebesnye zheny lugovykh Mari, 2013); or producer Vsevolod Lisovskii’s almanac I am Twenty 2012 (Mne 20 let 2012), to which Khlebnikov is one of five contributors. Even at the level of potential films, the project Off-Chance (Avos’), which consists of seven novellas by seven directors, was pitched at Kinotavr 2012 to a sympathetic jury, who well understood the implied strategy of the emergent genre.[15] The almanac as a phenomenon pushes back against our expectations of normative feature films, forcing upon us unfamiliar questions of spectatorship: as we think back on Sigarev’s Living, for example, are its three narrative lines the stuff of the conventional feature film or of the almanac? What different systems of interpretation do we bring to our primary orientation?

Four Sweet Passions: Egen, Kasatkin-Nazarova, Shamirov, and Ruminov

daughter For those who would prefer the consoling passions of generic predictability, the second half of Kinotavr 2012 was replete with familiar convention: Nurbek Egen’s The Empty Home (Pustoi dom, 2012), for all its global peregrinations, is an Eastern melodrama offering a cautionary tale about life in the West. Aleksandr Kasatkin and Natal’ia Nazarova’s The Daughter (Doch’, 2012), which won Kinotavr’s 2012 Debut award, managed to enliven an otherwise conventional love story with the welcome intervention of a serial killer. Saturated with high sentiment and moral certainty, the film nimbly integrates the generic codes of the Hollywood thriller into a story of spiritual chastity. Those who had earlier enjoyed Viktor Shamirov’s 2011 Exercise in Beauty (Uprazhnenie v prekrasnom, 2011) appreciated the director’s third film, the This is What Happens to Me (So mnoi vot chto proiskhodit, 2012), a New Year’s film we are destined to see again once the weather keeps us indoors. Among its principal virtues is its reluctance to deliver the final message that everything is fine.

The festival’s fourth consoling passion was Pavel Ruminov’s I’ll Be Around (Ia budu riadom, 2012), a soulful television drama recast as a film of ninety-three minutes. Its greatest strength is the acting talent of female lead Mariia Shalaeva, who plays a young mother dying of a brain tumor and seeking to leave her six-year-old son with good foster parents. To the surprise of many cinema critics, this redemptive film was awarded Kinotavr’s Grand Prix, a jury decision that is surely a retort to the dark cinema of recent years, including work by Sigarev and Mizgirev.

Five-Spice Salmagundi: Mokritskii, Proshkin, Kostomarov/Rastorguev, Baskova

protest day Sergei Mokritskii’s Protest Day (Den’ uchitelia, 2012) captures one day in the life of a middle-aged Russian teacher. The lyric cinema of the 1970s—Georgii Daneliia’s Afonia (1975), or his Autumn Marathon (Osennii marafon, 1979), and other contemplative comedies—are the forerunners to this thoughtful and endearing film.  Here Mokritskii is interested in the quirky intelligent with a rich interior life, isolated by insurmountable social awkwardness that mediates his contact with the outside world. The film is a credible contrast to two established representations of the intelligentsia—sanctified mystics or self-interested cynics—and confirms Sitora Alieva’s view of the “little man” as a recurrent concern of contemporary Russian cinema. Mokritskii’s film is noteworthy for reasons beyond its artistic quality and its high professionalism: its incorporation of events from Moscow’s Bolotnaia Square demonstrations into the narrative of everyday life is surely one of the earliest representations of this new civic activism. Mokritskii’s portrait of “the intelligent who doesn’t always act intelligently”[16] is described by the director as a black comedy, but the film is in fact more nuanced than this simple taxonomy would suggest.

Aleksandr Proshkin’s Expiation (Iskuplenie, 2011), based on Fridrikh Gorenshtein’s 1967 novel of the same title, is set on the eve of 1946, the first year after the war’s end. The film, which traces the maturation of a sixteen-year-old girl struggling with the ethical failures of her widowed mother, is the second of Proshkin’s films set around the period of World War II. His Live and Remember (Zhivi i pomni, 2008), based on Valentin Rasputin’s 1974 novel, had earlier won Best Director at Kinotavr 2008. Proshkin retains a substantial following among established cinema critics and journalists, in part because his work falls between the ideological divide of contemporary cinema: the “Balabanovs” on the one hand and the redemptive “children of Mikhalkov” on the other. His filmmaking style confounds this distinction and is perhaps cherished in part because of its success in bridging that political and ideological gap.

i dont love youPavel Kostomarov’s and Aleksandr Rastorguev’s I Don’t Love You (Ia tebia ne liubliu, 2011), which won the 2012 Kinotavr Special Jury Prize, is an experimental film shot with a home video camera by twenty-year-old Vika, as she decides between the two men in her life. The film is a continuation of Kostomarov’s and Rastorguev’s earlier effort, the I Love You (Ia tebia liubliu, 2010); it mixes staged dialogue with improvisation and documentary footage as its working-class participants intentionally and accidentally record themselves sorting out their relationships. The film potentially marks a very different kind of cinema. As Kostomarov puts it, “We cannot watch cinema where actors stand at a marked spot, turn to the proper light and speak the text. That entire horror, that ballet, those Brest tanks and people burnt by the sun—it is unbearable to take all that old-fashioned, last-year, last-century cinema as a method for history’s tale.”[17]

for marxAlso a quasi-documentary of sorts, Svetlana Baskova’s For Marx… (Za Marksa…, 2012)is an idiosyncratic text: its press materials lay claim to its faithful continuation of Soviet production films, but in fact it has little recognizable commonalities with that genre. Recounting the story of factory workers in a “mono-city,” or one-industry town, in the wake of the 2008 Russian financial crisis, the film tracks their unionizing efforts through to its inevitable betrayals and failure. Blending documentary with artistic episodes of union organizing, the film maker claims to be independent of any codified ideological strain, though her work is clearly inflected with union left politics.[18] Certain thematic links might be forged retrospectively to such films as Vadim Abdrashitov’s Magnetic Storms (Magnitnye buri, 2003), but for the most part the film is best taken as a unique document. The film is a particularly curious work in the real-life context of the civil unrest that has swept major Russian cities during the 2012 elections. In contrast to the activism of that metropolitan intelligentsia, Baskova’s activism is a different kind of political engagement altogether, many universes removed from the middle-class ambiance of Bolotnaia Square. Of the fifteen films of 2012, it is perhaps the most distinct.

The Prudent Digestif

It is perhaps symptomatic of contemporary Russian cinema that two utterly incompatible films were strong, viable candidates for Kinotavr’s top prize: Sigarev’s Living and Smirnova’s Kokoko. Instead, to audible gasps at the closing ceremony, Ruminov’s I’ll Be Around, the festival’s most redemptive effort, walked away with the Grand Prix. In the moments that followed, it was impossible to miss the audience’s murmured recalibration of the jury member’s profiles: Bakuradze? Fedorchenko? Khomeriki? How do we coordinate this decision with our understanding of these directors?

nazarovaNone of us will gain entry to the Forbidden Palace of real-time jury deliberations. It is reasonable to speculate, however, that at least some of the internal debates were oriented around “anything but Sigarev,” in the same fashion that earlier debates, including by our own colleagues, had at times been “anything but Balabanov.” That stance of “anything but…” best captures the current reality of Russian cinema. Highly polarized, quick in its judgments, the contemporary cinematic configuration has no lack of talent, either among its directors or among its critics. It is, however, paralyzed by the relative impossibility of an uncontested middle ground. The intensely personal stakes of today’s debates is evidence of cinema’s vitality; at the same time, their ideological saturation imbues the profession with an odd combination of unreflective ruthlessness and toxic caution. It is remarkable in this over-heated environment that Alieva is able, year after year, to produce a constellation of film offerings that will talk back to its highly partisan participants.

If one might seek in these Kinotavr 2012 films some kind of recurrent preoccupation, I would risk suggesting that a good candidate might be their concern with class difference. Given Russia’s fraught ideological past, class difference is a topic most contemporary filmmakers would be quick (even well-advised) to disavow; it nevertheless remains a recurrent narrative code that informs both the commonalities and disjunctures of its contemporary cinema. Always a rich source for comedy, melodrama, art-house speculation, and social commentary, class difference arguably informs major works of the past several years, including Andrei Zviagintsev’s Elena (2011), Avdot’ia Smirnova’s Two Days (Dva dnia, 2011), and Angelina Nikonova’s Twilight Portrait (Portret v sumerkakh, 2011). Its endurance as a source of narrative complexity could be traced this year variously through Smirnova’s Kokoko, Khlebnikov’s Till Night Do Us Part, Baskova’s For Marx… and Egen’s Empty Home. In my private view—that is to say, with no presumption that the topic should be taken up by my Russian colleagues—class difference remains the Great Unspoken of contemporary Russian filmmaking. And perhaps it should remain so: a divisive and volatile subject, its strength derives precisely from its status as something too complex to be mentioned outright, but nevertheless refracted through many of the films on the Russian screen today.

1] Kinotavr’s board has included Petr Aven, president of Alpha Bank; Oleg Deripaska, General Director of Russian Aluminum; Vitalii Ignatenko, General Director of ITAR-TASS; and Konstantin Ernst, General Director of First Channel. The current Chair of the Board of Trustees is director and producer Fedor Bondarchuk.

2] Interview with Sitora Alieva, Kinotavr Daily 1 (3 June 2012): 2.

3] Strictly speaking, only one debut film was admitted: Benigsеn’s State of Emergency. Kasatkin’s and Nazarova’s The Daughter is a husband-wife directorial team; Nazarova is a debut filmmaker.

4] Aleksei Uchitel’, “Bogatye tozhe plachut,” Kinotavr Daily 6 (8 June 2012): 9.

5] These debuts are among a total of about sixty projects annually supported jointly by both the Ministry and the Cinema Fund. See the interview with Sergei Lazaruk, Kinotavr Daily 2 (4 June 2012): 5.

6] These were Fiks’s White Moor, Kostomarov’s and Rastorguev’s I Don’t Love You, Shamirov’s This is What Happens to Me, and Khlebnikov’s Till Night Do Us Part.

7] Khamidkhodzhaev is one of a handful of interesting DoPs in Russian cinema today, including Mikhail Krichman, Aleksandr Il’khovskii, Pavel Kostomarov, Aleksandr Smirnov, and Shandor Berkeshi.

8] Interview with Boris Khlebnikov, Kinotavr Daily 1 (3 June 2012): 5.

9] Exchange between Boris Khlebnikov and Diliara Tasbulatova at the former’s press conference on 4 June 2012.

10] Sytyi has appeared in each of Khlebnikov’s films, including the co-directed Koktebel and Khlebnikov’s contribution “Shame” (“Pozor”) to the almanac Crush. Iatsenko has appeared in Free Floating, Help Gone Mad, and “Shame.”

11] Watching Mizgirev’s film, I am reminded of film critic Elena Stishova’s startling description of Abdrashitov’s Magnetic Storms as a male ballet (“Vyshli my vse iz naroda: Magnitnye buri, rezhisser Vadim Abdrashitov,” Iskusstvo kino 8 (2003).

12] For more information, see N. L. Leiderman, Dramaturgiia Nikolaia Koliady (Kamensk-Ural’skii: Kalan, 1997).One might recognize Koliada’s signature in Sigarev’s elaborate use of everyday domestic kitsch that ornaments the interiors of Sigarev’s settings. I would argue that the incompatible combination of violent emotional intensity with the banal, staged clutter resembles the stage design of Koliada’s production style.

13 Difficult to define, the almanac has historically been at least two different things: a single director’s segmented film; or several directors’ collaboration of related shorts (or even unrelated shorts). English-language scholarship sometimes refers to the almanac as an omnibus film, a portmanteau, an anthology, or a panel film. While some critics would insist that a multi-director work is an anthology, whereas a single director’s compendium is an almanac, the vocabulary remains unstable, and the rules of inclusion or exclusion are incoherent. I consider the almanac a loose, non-scientific term to describe a meta-genre with at least four variants: (1) A single director’s film with distinct internal segments, e.g. Kira Muratova’s Three Stories /Tri istorii, 1997. A well-known US example is George Romero’s 1982 Creepshow. (2) Several directors collaborating on a single theme, sometimes the celebration of a specific event, time, or place: e.g. The Arrival of the Train/ Pribytie poezda, 1996; Moscow, I Love You! / Moskva, ia liubliu tebia!, 2010; Moms/ Mamy, 2012. Familiar non-Russian examples include New York Stories (1989) and Paris, je t’aime (2006). (3) Several directors who accept a common premise to produce individual shorts (e.g. the five-director group of the 2011 Experiment 5IVE and the 2012 international almanac Fourth Dimension / Chetvertoe izmerenie, for which Aleksei Fedorchenko contributed “Chronoeye” /“Khronoglaz”, alongside contributions by Jan Kwiecinski and Harmony Korine); (4) Several directors collaborating on apparently unrelated themes (most memorably, Crush/ Korotkoe zamykanie, 2009]. Loban’s Chapiteau Show, for example, might well be considered an almanac less because of its intersecting plot lines than because of its distinct narrative divisions. By the same logic, Paul Haggis’s 2004 Crash is less an almanac than a feature film with interwoven plot lines. A similar line of argument could be brought to bear on Timur Bekmambetov’s 2010 Six Degrees of Celebration / Elki and his 2011 sequel. I am grateful to Beach Gray for the chance to discuss these differences with respect to both Russian cinema and such non-Russian examples as Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2000 Amores Perros and Jørgen and Asger Leth’s 2003 The Five Obstructions/De fem benspænd.

14] Some might argue that Kinotavr’s Opening Night film—Boris Khlebnikov’s Till Night Do Us Part—might be counted as a fourth Kinotavr almanac. A more fitting historical niche is found alongside such multiple-plot films as Edmund Golding’s 1932 Grand Hotel, in which the physical setting stages a narrative occasion. The restaurant (for Khlebnikov) or hotel (for Golding) is part of a larger taxonomy of the “single device,” often identified in the film’s title (e.g. François Girard’s 1998 The Red Violin; or Jim Jarmusch’s 2003 Cigarettes and Coffee). 

15] For an elaboration of this argument, see my short essay in Iskusstvo kino (in print).

16] Sergei Mokritskii, Kinotavr press conference (7 June 2012).

17] The references are to Aleksandr Kott’s 2010 Fortress of War/Brestskaia krepost’ and Nikita Mikhalkov’s Burnt by the Sun/Utomlennye solntsem. See “Kostomarov s Rastorguevym pokazali v Sochi fil’m o real’nykh strastiakh,” RIA Novosti (8 June 2012).

18] See the interview with Maksim Tuula, “Za Marksa… Svetlany Baskovoi: ‘ia prezhde vsego khudozhnik, a ne ideolog,’” Biulleten’ kinoprokatchika (7 June 2012).


Nancy Condee © 2012

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Updated: 14 Oct 12