The Russian soul should wake up

Ria Novosti commentator Mariya Tupoleva interviews Karen Shakhnazarov, general director of the Mosfilm studios


ShakhnazarovWhat is Mosfilm now that it is turning 80?

We have managed to bring the concern's equipment in line with the Western standards. Our technological base is now one of the best in Europe. Mosfilm pavilions frequently host foreign directors. Last year, the concern released about 50 features. Plus, we dub all the Hollywood films - "Harry Potter," "Gangs of New York" and many others - that are screened in Russian cinemas. At the moment, the studio is implementing over 100 projects. Many European companies can only dream about this. Hence, we are all right.

Does Mosfilm have any problems?

Yes, but they mostly have to do with creativity. For instance, there is an acute shortage of directors and scriptwriters. Since 1991, we have tackled technological and financial problems on our own, with no government subsidies whatsoever. Nonetheless, we cannot solve all of them, as talent is a Godsend.

How is globalisation affecting the Russian film industry?

In my opinion, all spheres of Russian culture are degrading. This process is typical not only for Russia but also for the entire world. Globalisation is a steamroller that is crushing and eliminating individuality. The Internet does not mould but rather levels personality. People are brought up on advertising and film cliches, watching Harry Potter. Critics decide what is good and what is not. People have forgotten how to think, and they cannot create anything serious. In Soviet times, there was not such an information flood from the West like we have now. However, we saw all the best films of the world film industry. Now some people do not even know who Fellini is.

What are the specific characteristics of the Russian film industry?

Unfortunately, Russia is known for its extremes. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries Russia's cultural achievements were the best in the world. This phenomenon was only comparable to the Golden Age. Soviet times saw some colossal achievements too. I think now Russia is rated far behind the West and seems to borrow its worst features.

In creative terms, Soviet-class features are not produced in Russia today. The quality of the film industry is determined by the cultural level of its audience, which was undoubtedly higher in Soviet times.

What is the reason for the decreasing cultural level of the Russian audience?

This is directly linked to education, which was much better 12-15 years ago. I used to be a teacher and can say that some entrants of the director faculty have never read Mikhail Bulgakov's works. A director should be well educated. Today's youths read very little. There is a section of the refined public, but the general cultural level is very low. The Russian soul is sleeping but will hopefully wake up one day.

What are you working on now?

I am finishing a new feature called "Rider Called Death," which is an adaptation of Boris Savinkov's novel, "Pale Horse." The novel reveals the psychology of a terrorist and the motives guiding such people, i.e. internal mechanisms of terror. This theme is unfortunately very topical now. The feature is to be released in April.

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Author`s name Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey