The Russian Film Week festival returned to the UK capital on Sunday with a premiere of Captain Volkonogov Escaped at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square in London.
The directors and stars of the thriller, which was directed by Natasha Merkulova and Alexey Chupov, gave a warm welcome to the guests via a video message (due to COVID and travel restrictions). Director Natasha Merkulova said, “Throughout history, every day, somewhere in the world, some people have tortured others. In addition, it is still happening in the twenty first century. It is a universal problem, and each of us should personally reflect on it.”
Mike Butcher, Editor-at-Large of TechCrunch, who attended the opening, said, “I think the film wasn’t just one of the best Russian films I’ve ever seen. It was one of the best films I’ve ever seen, period. In particular, the allegory of the Captain asking forgiveness of the relatives of his victims reminded me that, somewhere inside the Kremlin, someone else is asking for forgiveness too. The question is, will they ever get it? And will they go to heaven?”.
The movie is loosely based on events of 1930’s Russia and is not a literal recreation of historic events, but rather an allegorical drama set in 1930s Leningrad, during Stalin’s purges when everyone was a suspect. The film tells a story of an obedient law enforcer on the run: in his attempt to escape purges Volkonogov tries to find a way to repent, but his time is running out.
Captain Volkonogov Escaped received high praise by critics during its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year, where it was the only Russian film in the festival’s main programme.
Speaking about the location, directors of the movie said, “We are honoured that the UK premiere of our film will take place at the legendary Odeon Luxe, a living history of world cinema”. Odeon Luxe Leicester Square was designed for Royal, Global and European film premieres. It remains one of the most iconic cinemas in the world and home to hundreds of premieres since 1937.
Steve Furst, a British film and theatre actor, said about the movie, “A beautifully realised story about a desperate path to redemption told against a historically brutal background featuring a mesmerising central performance from Yura Borisov.”
Gabriel Prokofiev, a composer and grandson of Sergei Prokofiev, a world-famous composer, said after the screening “Captain Volkonogov Escaped” was very powerful and remarkable opening to this year’s festival. It dared to take us to one of the darkest and most corrupt aspects of the Soviet Russia in the late 30s. The sense of dread & fear was palpable. But at the same time the philosophical & sometimes whimsical approach of the film gave it originality, and more depth than most thrillers.
Olivia Lichtenstein, director, screenwriter and a member of BAFTA, said, “Urged on by his murdered friend, Veretennikov, who appears like Banquo’s ghost, Captain Volkogonov seeks forgiveness for his terrible wrong-doings as a Stalinist agent in this arresting and stylish tale, which leaves an indelible imprint on the viewer. A standout contribution to Russian Film Week.”The attendees were welcomed to the red-carpet ceremony and later entertained at Kaspersky Opening party at the W Hotel.
At the opening ceremony, founder and general producer Filip Perkon said, “As a festival, we have gone through a lot. At some point, it seemed that the Russian Film Week was done. Now, miraculously aided by a lot of work, we are back. I cannot say how happy we are to be in cinemas. I have realised that the Russian Film Week is so much more than just content. It is about the magic of getting together and experiencing a film together on a big screen, the discussions, the debates, the red carpet photos, and the connections you make, the people you meet. Our festival is about connecting over a shared passion, which cannot be replicated online.”
He noted that over the past two years “Russian cinema only got stronger, placing its flags on the world festival map – with the highest presence at international festivals for 30 years, since the fall of the Soviet Union, that sparked a huge interest in everything Russian.”
FULL PROGRAMME AND KEY FACTS
The opening gripping thriller is one of 44 movies on the festival line up (24 feature films and 20 short films) that will screen in London and Cambridge. The full programme can be found here: www.russianfilmweek.org.
Audiences will have access to both in-person and digital programming: for the duration of the RFW 2021, short films will be available to watch via the RFW online platform.
All movies of the RFW2021 will be shown in their original language with English subtitles.
In 2021, the festival received 404 applications for participation. The final selection represents the genre diversity of the Russian film industry, spanning drama, comedy, historical films, thrillers, action movies, melodramas and documentaries.
Due to quarantine requirements this year and Sputnik V not being recognised in the UK, less talents could come to London for the duration of the Russian Film Week. Filip Perkon mentioned, that the organisers were glad to welcome Michael and Lily Idov and their movie “Jetlag”, Oxana Akinshina and the horror/thriller title “Sputnik” at end of the week, as well as Ilya Stewart, the producer of “Petrov’s flu” (by Kirill Serebrennikov) and “Sputnik”.
The Russian Film Week culminates with the Golden Unicorn Awards ceremony held at the Haymarket Theatre on 5 December 2021. It will celebrate achievements of Russian cinematography and international filmmakers creating Russian-themed films. The awards have two separate juries: an international and a Russian jury, providing a unique opportunity to recognise both Russian and foreign films through a cross-cultural lens.
The Casting Bridge International Forum, held annually as part of Russian Film Week in the UK, will take place on 1-2 December in London.
Further screenings and events information will be regularly updated at http://www.russianfilmweek.org/
RUSSIAN FILM WEEK PARTNERS:
Synergy Corporation, Blavatnik Family Foundation, Gazprom Marketing and Trading
OPENING AND ONLINE PARTNER: