At the end of 2022, the experts of the White Elephant National Award of Film Critics and Film Critics of Russia issued a statement: “This year we were going to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our award. But the tragic events of last year forced us not only to abandon the festive ceremony, but also to question the timeliness of the presentation of the award to films in 2022. February 24 divided our life into “before” and “after”. Films made in relatively peaceful times turned out to be irrelevant by the end in most cases.
In contrast to the White Elephant, another award established by the National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Russia, although it held the Golden Eagle award ceremony with a reduced degree of pomp - and primarily due to the absence of its main sponsor and inspirer Nikita Mikhalkov, literally on released from the hospital a few days ago, nevertheless retained the corporate style of imperialism and named the drama about the chess confrontation between Karpov and Korchnoi "The World Champion" (directed by Alexei Sidorov) the main film of the year.
The founders of the White Elephant Prize frankly admitted:
“We have tried to keep the award. They collected and sent out films, held a trial rating voting based on the results of the year. It showed the deformation of the film process, the absence of leading films, the blurring of the evaluation criteria. In science, the absence of a result is regarded as a scientific result. It is our duty as professional experts to state this sad outcome of the film year.”
Mikhalkov's academics habitually collected several high-budget, as a rule, state-funded "patriotic blockbusters" (at least four of the five films that claimed the main award) into a single bundle, and chose the most topical of them.
“World Champion” is plotted from the Soviet era, it contains not just the forces of evil, but the forces of evil in the form of the “collective West”, which not only helps the former Soviet chess player Viktor Korchnoi, in the caricature performance of Konstantin Khabensky, finally become a “scum and renegade”, but and is trying to disrupt, including with the help of parapsychological technologies and other devilry, the victory of the Soviet contender for the world chess crown Anatoly Karpov in the legendary match of 1978 in the Philippine city of Baguio.
"The Collective West" helps the former Korchnoi in the caricature performance of Khabensky to become a "scum and renegade"
The creation of a film, as you know, is a lengthy, technically capacious process. It is impossible to take in the cinema with the immediacy of propaganda TV and respond to the events of February 24th. Especially if the film claims to reach a large audience (and especially the youth) audience, tempted by the Hollywood context. Especially if within the framework of this competition - even if now in connection with the imposition of sanctions and mainly mental - a lot of money must be spent on the production of the film (and on its release).
Moreover, all attempts at such topicality in Russian cinema have so far ended in failure - like the film about the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict of 2008 “August. Eighth (2012, directed by Dzhanik Fayziev) with a budget of $19 million and with a return of only half of this amount (and this despite the fact that the film was shown not only in Russia, but also in other CIS countries, and the situation at the box office was not so depressing , as today).
Or the more modest in terms of coverage of events and the scale of generalizations, the lyrical comedy "Crimean Bridge" (2018), made by the family contract of propagandists Simonyan - Keosayan, which was watched by only 300 thousand people in the first year of its release in Russia, and the rating on Kinopoisk still rests on a devastatingly low score of 2.9 out of 10.
Of course, the reprogramming of the industry is underway. And it may even seem bureaucratically clumsy. Surprisingly, for the whole of last year, the Ministry of Culture issued, perhaps, only one directive document on the topic of the new agenda (and even then in a veiled form), declaring the collection of applications for subsidies (up to 100 million rubles) “related to the production of feature national films of socially significant topics on global geopolitical and social changes in the history of modern Russia”.
Over the past year, the Ministry of Culture issued only one policy document on the topic of the new agenda
At the same time, the situation looked quite parodic from the outside: the ministerial announcement was dated August 1, and the application deadline was August 11. As if a sack race was announced for a short distance with a good prize fund. And all that remained was to rack his brains well in order to earn 100 million patriotic rubles in ten days.
On the other hand, the reprogramming of the film industry has been systematically going on since 2012 without unnecessarily abrupt steps. Gradually, the functions of supporting art are being washed away - in the direction of supporting propaganda and PR of "state" values (as they are understood by officials and deputies). And this process is primarily associated with the name of Vladimir Medinsky, who became Minister of Culture in that same year.
And here the current minister, Olga Lyubimova, has a completely reliable and time-tested legacy, built on the systemic imposition of hidden censorship (and now not hidden at all) and the education of servile self-censorship (which turned out to be even more important and, unfortunately, even more effective). Practically excluding the appeal to any acute topics of our time.
The current Minister of Culture has a time-tested legacy built on the imposition of covert censorship
Let us note that if there are films in modern Russian cinema of the last decade related to the events on the Kursk submarine, the terrorist attacks in Beslan or Dubrovka, then, as a rule, they explore not the events themselves, but their psychological consequences (and then only hinted), as it happens, for example, in the films “Shame” (2013, directed by Yusup Razykov) or “Unclenching Fists” (2020, directed by Kira Kovalenko). And if such a connection is expressed directly without any veil, as in the film "Conference" (2020, directed by Ivan Tverdovsky), then the film receives a guaranteed refusal of the state in financial support.
The film “Kursk” (2018, directed by Thomas Vinterberg) is being filmed by a broad coalition of Europeans, practically the “collective West”, on a topic that is painful especially for Russians and a topical topic.
By the way, the best Russian filmmakers with international recognition, such as Andrey Zvyagintsev, Kirill Serebrennikov, Vasily Sigarev, Kantemir Balagov, Kira Kovalenko, have made their films in recent years without state support (or not at all).
The best Russian filmmakers with international recognition have made their films without state support in recent years
Alexander Sokurov is now in a protracted open conflict with the Ministry of Culture, and why Sergei Loban, the director of the best, according to most film critics, film of the previous decade, Big Top Show (2011), has not released a single film for ten years, one can only guess.
And if the specific consequences of the “special military operation” unleashed by Russia in Ukraine are not yet obvious in the sphere of current film production, the distribution can already demonstrate the first “achievements” of the new reality.
The main film festival hits of the past year - "Tchaikovsky's Wife" by Kirill Serebrennikov (participation in the IFF in Cannes) and "The Tale" by Alexander Sokurov (participation in the IFF in Locarno) did not reach the audience in cinemas (and not only in cinemas) still do not have a clear release. As well as another “loud” picture “Captain Volkonogov fled” by Natasha Merkulova and Alexei Chupov, which participated in the official program of the Venice IFF the year before last and received the White Elephant award in 2021.
One can, of course, connect these events primarily with the political position of this or that director or actor. The anti-war statements of the same Serebrennikov and Sokurov are well known. Probably, it is also obvious that under the current political regime in Russia, Serebrennikov and Zvyagintsev are unlikely to return to the country. But, paradoxically, the political connection in the current circumstances does not explain everything.
"Captain Volkonogov ..." and "Fairy Tale" were not released at the initiative of their producers and directors - perhaps for fear of provocations (despite the fact that the film by Merkulova and Chupov has a rental certificate, and Sokurov does not want to receive it for reasons of principle).
On the other hand, the Ministry of Culture strongly recommended that the creators of the far less well-known film about Sergei Yesenin “December” not apply for a distributor (in connection with which the October release of the film was even cancelled). Moreover, its director is the same Klim Shipenko, who made quite successful films "Text" and "Kholop". And who, in October 2021, together with Yulia Peresild, flew into space, filming the film “The Challenge” (it is now being filmed), which, of course, in peacetime circumstances, would bring Shipenko the glory of the official Russian director No. 1.
But the prestige of the country (the first filmmakers in space!) turned out to be a less weighty argument than the fear of the security forces, who, God forbid, would consider that the Chekists in the film about Yesenin turned out to be too bloody (and this is precisely the reason for the ban).
The prestige of the country turned out to be a less weighty argument than the fear of the security forces
Directly related to the influence of the security forces is the ban on the 12-episode comedy series Comrade Major, filmed for online platforms by another eminent director Boris Khlebnikov (Arrhythmia). Filming of the series ended back in 2021, due to a sad coincidence, in March last year, the lead actor Yevgeny Syty passed away. A premiere date has yet to be set.
Which, however, does not come as a surprise when you read the series’ snarky summary in your own way: “San Sanych Kuleshov is an FSB major who works in the wiretapping department. For many years, Sanych was part of a soulless state machine. He didn't ask too many questions and did his job. Having lived to the age of 50, Kuleshov suddenly realized that people do not need surveillance, but help. San Sanych becomes a hero, but a secret one. He appears where he is not expected, and "does good", even if he is not asked about it.
But not only films, but also people disappear from the movie horizons. Especially young and male. Not without reason, in our days, cultural officials have decided to conduct a total check in theaters for the presence of military-age actors in the workplace. And it’s somehow strange that the faces of many of them now and then appear on social networks against the backdrop of Istanbul or Berlin landscapes.
There is the most paradoxical example (unfortunately, for ethical reasons, we cannot name this 25-year-old film director). He left the country in March. His film, shot in the genre of black comedy, was just being released (the director was absent at the premiere), and his previous sensational work, some time after that, was awarded at the international horror film festival. This, it seems, decided everything: after several months of forced stay in Batumi, the director received a contract from one of the divisions of the Hollywood major Columbia Pictures.
There are open examples of this kind. For example, back in October last year it became known that Kantemir Balagov was preparing to shoot a full-length English-language debut in the United States. The film tells about the complex relationship between a father and son from the diaspora of Kabardian migrants in New Jersey.
And the last thing to understand is that filmmakers - both young and well-known in cinema - need an open world, and not national bonds in a prison cell. On December 22, Timur Bekmambetov sold Bazelevs film company (one of the companies guaranteed by the Federal Film Fund among other seven major studios - this time Russian cinema) to his partners and will now focus exclusively on American production.
Filmmakers - both young and famous in the cinema - need an open world, not national bonds
Kantemir Balagov, by the way, is produced by Alexander Rodnyansky, also a member of various film academies and a world-famous film festival winner, who was declared a foreign agent in the Russian Federation in the same October last year, and even earlier squeezed out of the country.
And this event collapsed another very important semantic and organizational structure for the Russian film industry: for the first time in more than 30 years, the Kinotavr film festival, the general producer and owner of the brand of which is Rodnyansky, did not take place in Sochi.
But it was with Kinotavr, especially in the pre-pandemic period (when the festival was held in June), in fact, that the new season began in Russian cinema. When the line of leaders of the film process was determined, the round tables and pitchings held at the festival gave impetus to the producer's thoughts, and the glamorous life accompanying the screenings and the business part of the program provided glossy covers and secular columns for six months in advance.
Understanding well the key importance of Kinotavr for the industry, as well as “meeting” the producers who flooded the ministry with inquiring letters, Minister Lyubimova even allocated 60 million rubles to hastily create a film festival analogue of Kinotavr, but soon abandoned this idea.
Apparently, the new applicants could not prove their worth, or the idea of a glamorous film festival on the Black Sea coast during the period of the “special military operation” turned out to be too frivolous. Yes, and unsafe by today's times.
As a result, a reminder of the Kinotavr, beloved by several generations, the screenings of which usually took place at the Winter Theater in Sochi, was the holding in Moscow in December at the Khudozhestvenny cinema, which is much more modest in terms of its capabilities and tasks, the Winter Film Festival, which in English transcription inevitably begins with the letter Z.
The producer of the new festival is Natalia Mokritskaya, director of the Moscow Cinema chain of cinemas. She is also the producer of another “patriotic blockbuster” “First Oscar” (2021, directed by Sergey Mokritsky), which (albeit quite unsuccessfully) was also considered by the National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Russia along with the film “World Champion” among the contenders for the best movie of the past year.
The film tells about the creation of the legendary film “The Defeat of German Troops near Moscow” by Soviet documentary filmmakers during the Second World War, which in the American version of “Moscow Strikes Back” really won an Oscar in 1943 among three more documentaries covering various geopolitical aspects of that war.
When the film was first filmed (including in the US), it was called Our First Oscar. Then the word “our” was bashfully touched somewhere, but the very connection with America’s main film award, of course, could not hide anywhere. Indeed, this was the main message of the picture: look how we conquered them!
But by the time the film was released, in the language of official rhetoric, everything American had to be not proudly conquered, but angrily denied. Including at the level of the Oscar film award. No wonder it was in 2022 that Russia, represented by Nikita Mikhalkov, publicly refused to participate in the Oscar race for the first time in almost six decades.
In 2022, Russia, represented by Nikita Mikhalkov, for the first time publicly refused to participate in the Oscar race.
What was not even in 1980, when Soviet tanks ironed Afghanistan, half the world boycotted the Moscow Olympics in protest, and American film academics at the same time awarded Vladimir Menshov’s film “Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears” with a gold statuette.
But today is not up to the semantic paradoxes of time. Adherents of traditional phobias count the number of heroes of non-titular nationality in the film "First Oscar" (and at the same time among real front-line cameramen), and the owners of cinema networks are much more concerned about the financial losses associated with the withdrawal of Hollywood content from the Russian market (the closure of 30 percent of cinema halls has already occurred ).
The savior of the film distribution homeland in this desperate situation is declared to be the good old Cheburashka, who, under new circumstances, became the hero of a full-length fantasy film and even gathered 17 million viewers in a month due to the lack of real competition.
And everything seems to be fine: import substitution in action. However, we must not forget that Cheburashka is a hero from the Soviet past, and the technologies in which the film of the same name was shot are entirely Hollywood-style.
По той же формуле сработаны и «Чемпион мира» (советский герой плюс проверенные штампы голливудского байопика), и все предыдущие российские фильмы на спортивные и военные темы, которые в силу их однотипности вслед за основоположником направления — фильмом «Легенда № 17» (2012, режиссер Н. Лебедев) — для верности можно было бы даже не называть, а нумеровать — «Легенда номер 18», «Легенда номер 19» и так далее.
Именно поэтому 57 критиков и киноведов решили подвести не итоги года, а итог 25-летия премии «Белый слон» , лучшие и худшие по фильмы за историю премии.
Свое заявление российские кинокритики и киноведы завершили словами:
«В 2022 году мы не выносим оценок и не выбираем лауреатов. Одновременно мы подводим итоги 25-летия нашей работы: пересмотрев списки лауреатов премии с позиций сегодняшнего дня, называем лучшие российские фильмы минувшей четверти века. Наша огромная печаль выражена и в этом решении».
Лучшие фильмы «Белого Слона»
«Окраина», 1998, реж. П. Луцик
«Кукушка», 2002, реж. А. Рогожкин
«Хрусталев, машину!», 1999, реж. А. Герман
«Настройщик», 2004, реж. К. Муратова
«Про уродов и людей», 1998, реж. А. Балабанов
«Елена», 2011, реж. А. Звягинцев
«Свободное плавание», 2006, реж. Б. Хлебников
«Телец», 2001, реж. А. Сокуров
«Аритмия», 2017, реж. Б. Хлебников
«Груз 200», 2007, реж. А. Балабанов
«Магнитные бури», 2003, реж. В. Абдрашитов
«Кочегар», 2010, реж. А. Балабанов
«Солнце», 2005, реж. А. Сокуров
«Шапито-шоу», 2011, реж. С. Лобан
«Изображая жертву», 2006, реж. К. Серебренников
«Мелодия для шарманки», 2010, реж. К. Муратова
«Овсянки», 2010, реж. А. Федорченко
«Первые на Луне», 2005, реж. А. Федорченко
«Старухи», 2003, реж. Г. Сидоров
«Возвращение», 2003, реж. А. Звягинцев
«Коктебель», 2003, реж. А. Попогребский, Б. Хлебников
«Левиафан», 2014, реж. А. Звягинцев
«Страна глухих», 1998, реж. В. Тодоровский
«Страна Оз», 2015, реж. В. Сигарев
«Я тоже хочу», 2012, реж. А. Балабанов
Худшие фильмы «Белого слона»
(Фильмы, которые более половины опрошенных экспертов с позиций сегодняшнего дня оценили негативно. Это именно не худшие фильмы последних 25 лет, а фильмы, получавшие премию «Белый слон» в разных номинациях, которые сегодня киноведы и кинокритики (члены экспертного совета) решили оценить заново.)
«Матильда», 2017, реж. А. Учитель
«Сибирский цирюльник», 1999, реж. Н. Михалков
«Дирижер», 2012, реж. П. Лунгин
«Одесса», 2019, реж. В. Тодоровский
«9 рота», 2005, реж. Ф. Бондарчук
«Брестская крепость», 2010, реж. А. Котт
«Последняя сказка Риты», 2012, реж. Р. Литвинова
«Про любовь», 2015, реж. А. Меликян
«Рай», 2016, реж. А. Кончаловский
«История одного назначения», 2018, реж. А. Смирнова
«24 часа», 2000, реж. А. Атанесян
«Брат 2», 2000, реж. А. Балабанов
«Дневник его жены», 2000, реж. А. Учитель
«Белые ночи почтальона Тряпицына», 2014, реж. А. Кончаловский
«Коллектор», 2016, реж. А. Красовский
«Прогулка», 2003, реж. А. Учитель