Since its launch in 2020, the Russian Film Festival (not to be confused with the Russian Film Week) has been held in 16 countries across the globe. Now, the event is coming to the UK, organised by ROSKINO, the state body charged with representing Russia’s movie industry abroad, and the British Film Institute. Ten contemporary Russian films will be available to watch between 12 November and 10 December on the BFI’s streaming platform. Here at The Calvert Journal, we’ve picked the three highlights you can’t miss.
Among the many attempts of reflecting on the chaos that the 90s brought to Russia, Anastasiya Palchikova’s Masha stands out thanks to its gripping storytelling and much-needed female perspective. The movie shows the cruelty and lawlessness of the decade through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl, who is coming of age among the gangsters that she considers her family. The film won the Best Debut prize at the Kinotavr festival.
The Last “Dear Bulgaria” (2021)
No, Aleksey Fedorchenko’s “Dear Bulgaria” doesn’t refer to the country, but the name of a special strain of apples with medicinal properties. The film follows protagonist, Leonid, who travels to Kazakhstan to revive the “Dear Bulgaria” apples cultivated by his father. While on his quest in Almaty, Leonid becomes distracted instead: both by romance, and the mysterious disappearance of a local writer. The film is an adaptation of Before Sunrise, a 1943 autobiographical, psychoanalytical novella by Mikhail Zoshchenko that was banned in the Soviet Union. Fedorchenko’s signature heavily-stylised aesthetic gives The Last “Dear Bulgaria” a unique look, and there is a meta storyline about an Eisenstein film production that cinephiles will appreciate.
Set in the proverbial year of 1984, this 2019 drama tells the story of a humorist called Boris Arkadyev. On the surface, Arkadyev is a successful comedian, but in reality he’s a deeply unhappy man suffocating under the state’s strict censorship. Beautifully shot by the Czech cinematographer Alexander Surkala, Humorist is the directorial debut of Mikhail Idov, who worked on screenplays for other Russian blockbusters such as Dukhless 2 and Leto.