Buzz, Film

The Russian Film Festival will be held for the first time in the UK from November 12 to December 10, 2021 on BFI Player. Ten contemporary Russian films across various genres have been selected specifically for British audiences and will be available online.

The Russian Film Festival (RFF) was launched in 2020 and has already been successfully held in 16 countries, with more than 200,000 viewers. It is organised by ROSKINO, a state organisation representing the Russian audiovisual content industry internationally with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and the Russian Cinema Fund.

Ten notable contemporary Russian films will be available to watch on BFI Player Subscription with English subtitles. New customers can enjoy the festival films as part of an extended Subscription free trial using the voucher code RFF21. In doing so, the BFI will further diversify the already broad collection of auteur and international cinema on the platform. Here you can find the festival’s teaser.

The selection for RFF UK includes:

● Masha — a 2020 crime drama and debut feature by Anastasiya Palchikova produced by the creators of the successful series To the Lake (top 10 on Netflix in more than 60 countries). It tells a story about Masha whose world is unexpectedly shattered when she learns a criminal truth about her friends. In 2021 the distribution rights of the movie were acquired by HBO.

● Conscience — a 2021 crime drama by Aleksey Kozlov. The movie takes place in the troublesome early twenties of the 20th century during a political crisis in Russia. The main character investigates the death of his brother and gets involved in much bigger police mysteries and conundrums. The movie is critically acclaimed and won three awards at the 24th Shanghai International Film Festival.

● A Siege Diary — a 2020 war drama by Andrey Zaitsev who took home the Best Director award from the 11th Beijing Film Festival for this movie. The plot revolves around different fates and events during the Siege of Leningrad in 1942. Masterful cinematography and immersive storytelling creates a gripping effect on the viewer.

● Last ‘Dear Bulgary’ — a 2021 comedy-drama by Aleksey Fedorchenko. The movie takes place in 1943. A young fruit grower revives a medicinal variety of apples and investigates a strange crime. The script is based on the novel by the famous Russian satirist Mikhail Zoshchenko «Before Sunrise» which was published for the first time in 1973, forty years after its completion in the US due to the author’s political stance.

● Tell Her — a 2020 family drama by a young talented director Alexander Molochnikov for whom it is partly autobiographical. His parents have also struggled with divorce and parenting across two countries: Russia and USA. This story is about choice and independence, family ties, and disconnection.

● The Bolshoy — a 2017 ballet drama by Valery Todorovsky. A rise and grind story about an aspiring ballet dancer from a provincial city who tries to carve her way to the top — to the stage of the famous Bolshoy Theatre. The shooting took place on its lavish historical stage with dozens of professional dancers involved. The beauty of the ballet is conveyed through camera by Sergey Mikhalchuk, the winner of Best Cinematography award at the San Sebastian Film Festival. The Bolshoy was part of the program of the RFF 2020 (that was held in four countries) and was the most viewed movie across the board.

● Doctor Liza — a 2020 biographical drama by Oksana Karas with a star cast including Chulpan Khamatova and Konstantin Khabensky. «Doctor Liza» was a nickname for Russian philanthropist Elizaveta Glinka who helped many in need. She is the founder of the «Doctor Liza’s Charity Foundation», an organisation that has gathered millions of rubles in humanitarian aid throughout the years.

● The Humorist — a 2019 dramedy by Mikhail Idov, his directorial debut. The movie is about both the creative and life crisis of a popular Soviet comedian played by Aleksey Agranovich who also starred in Doctor Liza. He accurately portrays an artist on the verge of a breakdown and the brilliant script from Idov results in a compelling story. Mikhail Idov’s screenwriting skills can also be seen in Kirill Serebrennikov’s Leto selected for Cannes Official Competition 2018.

● The Story of an Appointment — a 2018 historical drama by the award-winning Russian director Avdotya Smirnova. The film is based on real events that involved a world-famous Russian writer Count Leo Tolstoy himself, author of “War and Peace”. According to the plot, Tolstoy decides to help an innocent soldier to avoid execution for a crime he didn’t commit. This story of bravery and kindness has already won the hearts of the Russian audience and holds a high score on different review websites.

● Stanislavski. Lust for life — a 2020 documentary by Julia Bobkova, that was shot in Russia, UK, and the USA. This is a thorough portrayal of Konstantin Stanislavski’s life and talent. Stanislavski is a famous Soviet theatre practitioner and the originator of Stanislavski’s ‘system’ of acting. The movie encapsulates his life through the words of various directors and artists, including some British talents like Declan Donnellan and Katie Mitchell.

Evgenia Markova, CEO of ROSKINO: “We are eager to start the collaboration of the Russian Film Festival with BFI Player; we hope it will help us to increase the number of Russian cinema fans and strengthen cultural ties between our countries. We are excited about the perception of Russian movies in the United Kingdom — we are bringing a number of films in a variety of genres and it will be great to know which genres will be the most popular. The viewers of BFI Player are very interested in modern auteur movies and we considered this fact while making the selection of the films. Hopefully, the British audience will appreciate modern Russian movies no less than the documentaries about Russia that are already available on BFI Player. We also hope that the Russian Film Festival with the support of the recognized platform will let us understand the potential for cooperation between film industries of Russia and the UK”.

Stuart Brown, BFI Head of Programme and Acquisitions says: “The opportunity to bring a selection of contemporary Russian cinema to BFI Player subscribers was too good to miss and we welcome this exciting new partnership with ROSKINO. We have previously brought French, Polish and African films to the programme in a similar festival format, all of which had strong engagement with existing subscribers while also delivering new audiences. Our aim with BFI Player is to create the very best film subscription offer, with our library of contemporary, cult, and classic films enhanced by new collections of work like the Russian Film Festival, that film fans in the UK may otherwise not be able to see”.