The turmoil in Russian cinema due to the withdrawal of Hollywood

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MOSCOW (AFP) – After spending years translating Hollywood films, Russian Mila Grekova was suddenly fired after Moscow’s military intervention in Ukraine.

Five Hollywood giants – Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, Sony Pictures and Paramount – have stopped releasing new movies there, leaving Russian cinema deprived of the latest blockbusters.

But that hasn’t turned Grekova against President Vladimir Putin.

“It is the West that I hate today and not Putin,” the 56-year-old said.

“Bollywood may replace Hollywood in Russia, but it is too late for me to learn Hindi,” she said, referring to India’s refusal to condemn Moscow or join the sanctions.

Fighting in Ukraine has thrown Russia’s film industry into turmoil as it began to recover from the pandemic.

And like many regions hit by sanctions, the film industry is turning away from the West, looking to its films or looking east to Asia.

According to the European Audiovisual Observatory, 145.7 million watched Russian cinema last year, with the highest penetration in Europe.

Many come to watch Hollywood movies, which are often dubbed rather than shown with subtitles.

looking to asia

Before Hollywood’s comeback, Russian company Mosfilm-Master was dubbing about 10 foreign films a month, most of them in English.

“Now we have lost two-thirds of the business”, the company’s director Yevgeny Belin told AFP at its high-tech dubbing studio in Moscow.

“During the pandemic, we had films, but no cinema halls opened. Today, we have our cinemas but no films,” he said.

Russia’s National Association of Cinema Owners said last month that cinemas are at risk of losing up to 80 percent of their revenue.

In search of adaptations, Mosfilm-master is looking for translators for Korean and Mandarin, even though Belin stated that he “skeptical that Asian films work for Russians” due to cultural differences.

“Westerners are closer to us,” said the 70-year-old, who spent three decades dubbing.

Olga Zinyakova, president of Caro, one of Russia’s leading cinema chains, said she was confident the industry could rebuild.

Vacant seats: Olga Zinyakova, head of Karo, one of Russia's top cinema chains
Vacant seats: Olga Zinyakova, head of Karo, one of Russia’s top cinema chains Natalia Kolesnikova AFP

“The situation is extremely difficult, but not dire,” the 37-year-old said.

“Since the arrival of Hollywood in post-Soviet Russia 30 years ago, we have gone through a lot of crises: political, economic and pandemic,” she said, surrounded by empty seats at Moscow’s Oktober Cinema, Europe’s largest screening room of 1,500. with places.

Russian identity

Since the conflict began on February 24, the number of tickets sold at Karo’s 35 theaters has dropped by 70 percent, Zinyakova said.

The Russian government has promised big financial aid and tax breaks to film production and cinemas, as it seeks to replace Hollywood films with higher home fares.

“The Russians will explore themselves more deeply,” Zinakova said, alluding to the success of Russian films such as the 1990s cult film “Brat” (“Brother”), which re-screened in several Moscow theaters. has been

Zinyakova is preparing to include more Asian and Latin American films among upcoming releases.

“And when Hollywood comes back, the Russian market and audience will no longer be the same,” she said.

Sound designer Pavel Doroly, 44, who worked on about 15 Russian films a year, said it’s no surprise that Hollywood has moved out of Russia.

“World cinema has been a hostage to big politics for years,” he said, adding that major film festivals such as Cannes and Berlin were no longer about the arts, but about promoting “certain values”.

Still, Dorauli said it would be a shame for Russia to be cut off from world cinema, pointing to the exclusion of official Russian delegations from this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

“If they are excluded from international festivals, Russians will give up on arthouse cinema offering a different view of the world, which is so precious today,” he said.

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