Russian Film Week USA, which runs Jan. 23-29, is expanding its reach as it pivots to an online format, allowing audiences across the U.S. to sample Russia’s latest cinematic output. The event opens with Alexey Uchitel’s surreal road trip movie “Tsoy,” which imagines the aftermath of the fateful 1990 car accident that killed Soviet rock idol Victor Tsoy.
The first batch of 10 titles to be announced by the event, formerly called Russian Film Week New York, are all international or North American premieres, with the rest of the program, including documentaries and children’s films, to be announced later this month.
“The Whaler Boy,” which won Venice Days’ award for best director, is the closing night film. It follows an indigenous teenager as he discovers a world far beyond his whaling community. Other films in the lineup include Ivan Tverdovskiy’s “The Conference,” which also played at Venice Days, and Maria Ignatenko’s “In Deep Sleep,” which screened in Berlin Film Festival’s Forum section.
Russian Film Week USA is founded by New York-based arts non-profit the Cherry Orchard Festival, a producer of international theatrical, classical music and educational programming, and Russia’s Rock Studio Films, which also organizes the Message to Man International Documentary Film festival in St. Petersburg and the Russian Film Week in London.
In a statement, Cherry Orchard Festival founders Maria Shclover and Irina Shabshis commented: “There is nothing like premiering a brand new Russian film in a packed theater with the director present for a dialogue with the local audience. But the silver lining of our COVID pivot to an online format is that viewers from all over the U.S. are able to watch the film and exchange ideas with filmmakers in live online Q&As.”
Rock Studio Films founder Alexey Uchitel added: “This year Russian studio Rock Films presents American cinephiles with the astonishing visions of a diverse range of Russian filmmakers – some of which have already won awards in Venice and other A-list festivals, such as ‘The Whaler Boy’ and ‘Sententia’.”
He added: “Many of the features are inspired by real-life events or people that have shaped Russia these last decades, whether it’s sports, music, literature or terrorism. It’s been a year of great uncertainty, so we’re very proud of this initial collection of works that premiered as Russia navigated its lockdown. And it’s especially exciting to roll out the red carpet for them to the entire U.S.”
Subscription for Russian Film Week costs $100, which includes access to all festival screenings and Q&As. Individual tickets cost $16, which includes a single screening and Q&A, where available. Kids’ screenings cost $10, which includes a single kids-program screening.
First titles (final program to follow later this month):
“The Conference” by Ivan Tverdovskiy. Fictional account of survivor’s guilt about the 2002 terrorist attack in a Moscow theater. North American premiere. Played at Venice Days. Sales: Reason8 Films.
“Deeper!” by Mikhail Segal. A young director brings arthouse methods to an adult film production.
“Doctor Lisa” by Oksana Karas. Feature about a real-life doctor caring for Moscow’s most vulnerable. Winner of the People’s Choice Award at Sochi Open Russian Film Festival.
“Goodbye America” (a.k.a. “Motherland”) by Sarik Andreasyan. Comedy about how Russian immigrants in the U.S. view Mother Russia differently. Sales: Russian World Vision.
“In Deep Sleep” by Maria Ignatenko. Poetic feature debut about a fisherman, who finds his hometown shut down in a deep sleep. Screened in Berlin Film Festival’s Forum section. Sales: Reason8 Films.
“Mara” by Alexey Kazakov. Horror film about healer Mara erasing the trauma of a home invasion. Sales: Planeta Inform.
“Sententia” by Dmitriy Rudakov. A beautiful, meditative dramatization of the last days of Russian poet and Gulag survivor Varlam Shalamov. Winner of Fipresci award at Black Nights Film Festival. Sales: Rock Films.
“Streltsov” by Ilya Uchitel. A sports drama about Soviet-era soccer star fighting to save his reputation. Sales: Central Partnership.
“Tsoy” by Alexey Uchitel (opening night). Reimagining the aftermath of rock star Viktor Tsoy’s death in Soviet-era Latvia. Sales: Mint Films Intl.
“The Whaler Boy” by Philip Yuriev (closing night). Winner of this year’s Venice Days award for best director. Indigenous teenager discovers a world far beyond his whaling community. Sales: Rock Films.