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Putin The Director

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin criticized Russia’s film industry yesterday, telling prominent directors assembled at the recently created Council of Cinematography that “goals of economic, cultural, and humanitarian influence are not being reached.”

The premier did not elaborate on the kind of cinematic influence he was looking for, but he did try to relate to the industry by trying his hand -- or rather, foot -- at cinematic sound effects by walking on a bag of starch intended to mimic the crunch of snow underfoot.

Having demonstrated his ability in the field, AFP reports that Putin continued to advise filmmakers -- including Oscar-winner Nikita Mikhalkov -- by giving them a lesson in, of all things, American cinema during the Great Depression.

“The Great Depression in the United States gave a very important impulse to the development of American cinematography, and made this industry super-profitable,” he said.

Russia has a “rich cinematographic heritage,” Putin continued, “but our product does not so far have a mass foreign audience.”

In recent years, Russian directors Andrei Zvyagintsev and Aleksander Sokurov have been successful abroad, but contemporary Russian cinema does not have the clout of Soviet-era film (e.g. Andrei Tarkovsky).

Then again, Valery Todorovsky's film "Hipsters” won a top prize, the Black Pearl, at the Third Middle East International Film Festival in October this year.

The film is about Russian teenagers' underground embrace of American pop music culture in the 1950s. Watch the trailer here.

Still, Putin complained that Russian cinema today has “even fewer good ideas and talented works.”

This is because the state's financing system is “talentless,” said Konstantin Ernst, the head of the state-controlled Channel One television station.

Ernst told AFP that the Kremlin is undertaking a broad overhaul of state support for cinema and will create a special distribution fund to target top production companies.

Culture Minister Aleksander Avdeyev announced yesterday that government support for the industry will increase by 55 percent next year, to $166.7 million.

-- Kristin Deasy

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