Even in the height of Russian summer, thoughts of the long, dark winter are never far away. The first in a series of monthly short films by emerging directors from the new east, we bring you Night Winter People by Valeriy Polienko, a beautifully shot, tense human drama set on a Moscow taxi bus in midwinter.

Valeriy Polienko, who turned 40 this year, graduated from the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography in Moscow at the beginning of the 2000s, where he studied in the department of science fiction and intellectual film. During this time, however, he was concentrating more on music — discovering and producing pop groups. His biggest achievement was the famously scandalous band t.A.T.u., which Polienko created with friends in the industry, and for which he wrote almost all the early lyrics.

After directing an experimental short entitled Moscow-Phase and music videos for t.A.T.u., Night Winter People has been a game-changer for Polienko’s career. The film owes much to its brilliant young cast who play typical passengers in a Moscow taxi-bus. “The actor playing the protagonist — Pavel Derevyanko — is my childhood friend,” says Polienko. “I was just really lucky that Pasha is a great performer. He has a poetic nature about him, which really helped develop his character. The random passenger — Anna-Maria Shepelova — is also a tremendous actress.”

Another important component of the film is the Moscow night that glimmers outside the window of the bus. The film crew didn’t follow a bus with one particular route — instead they rented a car and drove around the whole city. You can therefore catch different streets and landmarks which merge to create a picture of a sleeping yet anxious megapolis.

Text: Anton Sazonov