‘Made to order’ film subsidies recall Russia’s Soviet past

'Made to order' film subsidies recall Russia's Soviet past
Elena, directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev (2011), received money from the Russian Cinema Fund before it was taken over by the Ministry of Culture

19 February 2013

The Russian Ministry of Culture’s new system of film subsidies, which is tied to a list of pre-approved genres and topics, has been criticised as heralding a return to the Soviet system of made-to-order movies. The ministry is offering Russian filmmakers funding from a pot of £17.5 for the production of 28 state-backed films over the next two years.

In December, Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky announced that film producers and directors would only receive money from the Russian Cinema Fund on the condition that they made films that adhered to pre-approved genres such as family comedies or covered “socially relevant” topics such as the challenges of living with disabilities.

Screen adaptations of classic and contemporary literature have also been given the green light along with films to celebrate the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 2013. A total of £2.6m has been earmarked for documentaries on a range of topics including World War One, Paralympic athletes and young antifascist campaigners.

Speaking in Variety magazine, film historian Sergey Lavrentiev said the funding rules were reminiscent of the Soviet system while another leading producer said: “The list of topics prove the Ministry of Culture is becoming the Ministry of Propaganda … and they are only proud of it.”

The Russian Film Fund was set up in 2009 with an annual budget of around $170m to promote Russian films overseas and encourage international co-productions. The fund was taken over by the Ministry of Culture in 2012.