Top 10 Movies To Watch ONLINE at Russian Film Festival

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The festival, organized by the Russian film promotion organization Roskino, will be held for the first time in the UK from 12 November to 10 December 2021. The selection of ten films will be available in line on the BFI Player with English subtitles.

1. “Masha” by Anastasia Palchikova

‘Masha’, by first director Anastasia Palchikova, is a look at post-Soviet reality through the eyes of a teenager. The crime drama has a retro feel but could serve as a bridge to understanding the 1990s generation.

Masha is 13 years old, her uncle is a crime boss. She wears shiny leggings, rose-colored glasses and dreams of becoming a singer. Whenever Masha feels “lost in the translation” she sings a song like ‘Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream ‘. She grows up seeing cruelty and violence; the guys from her uncle’s boxing section are Masha’s best friends. “Is it scary to kill?” She asks her uncle. “Life is livable after all death. Whoever is alive is right, ”he replies in what sounds like a motto of the Russian criminal world of the 1990s. And yet the main difference between ‘Masha’ and other gangster dramas is that Anastasia Palchikova’s film is neither gloomy nor gloomy. What is past is past, you just have to get over it.

READ MORE: Unraveling the Cult Behind Russian ‘Brat’ Franchise

2. “The Bolshoi” by Valery Todorovsky

This drama is a behind-the-curtain glimpse into the life of an aspiring ballerina who arrives in Moscow from a small mining town and takes the Bolshoi stage by storm.

Margarita Simonova and Anna Isaeva in

“The Bolshoi” is a sort of coming-of-age drama with suspense and twists around every corner. Everything is there: love, betrayal, rivalry, envy, sacrifice and success. Some seventy professional ballet dancers took part in the shoot, with over 500 costumes worn in the film. Unfortunately, there are few classical dance scenes and that is really the main flaw of the film.

3. “The comedian” by Mikhail Idov

Middle-aged Boris Arkadiev is a comic book whose success is no longer fun. The Soviet Union is on the verge of collapse, with Boris (a failed writer) struggling to motivate himself.

Aleksey Agranovich as Boris Arkadiev in 'The Humorist'.

His banal jokes always elicit enthusiastic applause, Boris earns a lot of money and lives comfortably with his wife and two children in a spacious apartment in Moscow, but something is missing. Boris is not at peace with himself and is torn apart by self-pity. He attributes this to a midlife crisis, but it’s actually much worse than that. Boris lost both self-esteem and the battle for the perception of Soviet reality and his place in it. It’s not funny at all.

‘The Humorist’ is Mikhail Idov’s debut film, in which bitter irony goes hand in hand with serious things like the inability to pause and tell each other the truth, for real.

READ MORE: 5 films that reflected the ‘winds of change’ in the last years of the USSR

4. “The last dear Bulgaria” by Aleksey Fedorchenko

Fedorchenko’s original dramatic comedy is a patchwork of whimsical flashbacks to Soviet writer Mikhail Zoschenko’s iconic book “Before Sunrise”.

A photo from 'The Last Dear Bulgaria'.

The film is set in 1943 and focuses on Leonid, a young fruit grower, who comes to Alma-Ata (now Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan) to develop a new variety of apples called “Dear Bulgaria”. As the plot turns, Leonid investigates the mystery of the disappearance of his favorite writer, Semyon Kurochkin (Mikhail Zoshchenko’s real pseudonym). This “parallel” storyline transforms “The Last Dear Bulgaria” into a grotesque detective film and mysterious author’s drama with a unique nostalgic twist.

5. “The story of a date” by Avdotya Smirnova

Son of a general, the young Grigory Kolokoltsev was a staunch supporter of liberal reforms in the Tsarist army, riddled with bullying and hooliganism. Finding himself in an infantry regiment in the province of Tula, the rebel lieutenant teaches the soldiers to read and write while confronting an ill-bred Polish commander.

Aleksey Smirnov as Grigory Kolokoltsev in

When a “socially dangerous” crime occurs in his regiment, Kolokoltsev turns to Count Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy for help. The latter delivers a fiery speech in defense of the little man, Clerk Shabunine. It’s amazing, but true: ‘The story of a date’ is based on real events that took place in 1866. The author of ‘War and Peace’, Lev Tolstoy, defended a punishable soldier the death penalty at court martial for insulting an officer. Despite the fact that the tragic events depicted in the film date back to the distant 19th century, “The Story of a Date” goes far beyond the historical context, exploring the phenomenon of humanism in the almost universal sense of the term. .

READ MORE: 10 BEST Screen Adaptations Of Russian Classics

6. “A Siege Diary” by Andrei Zaitsev

Very few directors have attempted to make films about the siege of Leningrad, a sensitive subject that is often avoided. Andrei Zaitsev decided to make a film about one of the most tragic and heartbreaking ordeals of WWII after reading “Leningrad Under Siege” by Ales Adamovich and Daniil Granin. The book made him feel the pain and suffering of the people of Leningrad, who had to survive without heating, without water, almost without electricity and without food during the 872-day ordeal.

A photo from 'A Siege Diary'.

One of the longest and bloodiest sieges in history began in September 1941, when the Germans cut off the last road to the city. The events of “A Siege Diary” take place during the winter of 1942.

Shot in black and white, the drama immerses the spectator in the daily life (or rather the death) of the inhabitants of Leningrad, who die by the thousands of hunger and German shells. ‘A Siege Diary’ recreates the dark and deadly image of the blockade so that others will never forget the sacrifices of those who perished in the war.

7. “Conscience” by Aleksey Kozlov

Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg) during the 1920s was a troubled and tragic period of chaos and political strife after the Russian Civil War. Boris Letush is a law professor who also works as an investigator.

Vladislav Komarov as Boris Letush in

The murder of his 35-year-old brother and his wife hits Boris like a ton of bricks. He is determined to find the offender at all costs and to punish him. The collision with the corrupt Soviet system forces the protagonist to come into conflict with his conscience. As often, it turns out that there isn’t much room for compromise… Shot in black and white, Aleksei Kozlov’s stylish film won three awards at the 24th Shanghai International Film Festival.

8. “Tell him” by Alexander Molochnikov

“I barely remember my parents living happy lives together,” 11-year-old Sasha recalls with palpable sadness. Her mother and father divorce and Sasha’s life becomes a nightmare.

Svetlana Khodchenkova and Artem Bystrov in

The film is set in St. Petersburg in the late 1990s, with its raised drawbridges serving as obvious metaphors that the overly nervous Svetlana and the hot-tempered Artem will never come together. Svetlana leaves her irresponsible husband for a down-to-earth American and wants to take Sasha with her to the United States. The poor boy finds himself between Scylla and Charybdis, unable to decide who he “loves more” – mum or dad. The problem is that, having ceased to get along and understand each other, manipulative parents stop hearing their own son, playing with the feelings of the child. “Tell Him” could serve as a visual guide on what NOT to do if you are going through a divorce and separation.

9. “Doctor Liza” by Oksana Karas

Her reputation preceded her. Russian humanitarian and charity activist Elizaveta Glinka, widely known as Dr Liza, was often referred to as a little woman with a big heart, a saint.

Chulpan Khamatova in the role of doctor Liza.

In 2007, Glinka founded the “Fair Help” fund in Moscow to provide medical care and financial support to disadvantaged Russian families, cancer patients and the homeless. Many were heartbroken when news of a military plane crash near Sochi in 2016 arrived. The plane was carrying members of the famous Alexandrov Ensemble to Syria, with several journalists and Dr. Liza also on board. Oksana Karas biopic is a tribute to the fearless and selfless woman who traveled to hot spots and took sick children to Moscow and St. Petersburg so they could get the medical help they so badly need in the best hospitals. Although this is a story with an unhappy ending, there is reason to hope that Dr. Liza’s virtues will be remembered for a long time.

10. ‘Stanislavsky. Lust for life ‘by Julia Bobkova

Julia Bobkova’s documentary is an opportunity to dive into the universe of Konstantin Stanislavsky’s “proposed circumstances”.

Constantine stanislavsky

Stanislavsky wrote his name in the history books as the most influential theater practitioner of the modern era and as a central actor and agitator in the world of acting and drama training. A leading actor, Stanislavsky developed his own method of dramatic training, widely known as the “Stanislavsky” system. Highly publicized around the world, he has become the foundation of the so-called “Method” style of actor. The documentary chrysalis the life of Stanislavsky through the words of leading directors and artists from around the world, including Declan Donnellan, Katie Mitchell, Lev Dodin and Kirill Serebrennikov.

READ MORE: How Russian theater guru Konstantin Stanislavsky changed the world of acting

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