While Russia and Hollywood both want a piece of the other's box office pie, they are more likely to come out ahead by working together on big commercial projects than emerging indie pictures. One movie that various Hollywood distributors are eyeing with interest is rising actor-director Fedor Bondarchuk's "Stalingrad."
What does it have going for it? Well, it's a 3-D epic romance set against a famous and pivotal World War II battle between the Russians and the Germans. August Diehl ("Inglourious Basterds") and Thomas Kretschmann ("Resident Evil") lead the international cast.
While we were in St. Petersburg, the Roskino bus took a detour to a wet and muddy movie set commandeered by Bondarchuk, who had starred in two of the Roskino selection, the commercial comedy "Spy" and the romance "Two Days." Charismatic and well-muscled, Bondarchuk seemed full of energy mid-way through a wearying fifteen-week shoot.
He welcomed his visitors into a tunnel full of Russian and German extras with various wounds waiting to be called, and took us through a strafed Russian apartment building demolished by gunfire and bombing, and across the muddy no-man's land to the German side, where a tank inside the first floor of the opposite building was aimed at the Russians across a no-man's land. The movie weaves several love stories through this intense, long-pitched stand-off between the Germans and Russians, including a Russian woman who is loved and protected by a group of five soldiers; when she has her child, they all become its parents.
Bondarchuk is a photographer and music video director who has helmed two feature films, of which Afghanistan actioner "9th Company" was a global hit; this is his first with the Red Camera in 3-D. An American stereographer was on hand advising the production on the 3-D, while another man was marshalling the tens of gigabytes of storage necessary for two sets of data; the movie will also be converted to screen in IMAX, the first non-American production to do so. David Lynch composer Angelo Badalamenti ("Blue Velvet") is composing the score.
The $27-million picture was financed by a combination of Russia's Cinema Fund, foreign pre-sales and a loan from state-backed VTB Bank. The film has already been pre-sold to China. Producers Alexander Rodnyansky, Sergei Melkumov and Dmitri Redovskiy are seeking a North American distributor, and at least two studios are talking about picking up some foreign rights.