I am on a junket to Moscow. It's not the normal press junket, where Fox or Disney ships a cadre of TV and online scribes to London to interview Ridley Scott and Charlize Theron for "Prometheus," or Scotland for "Brave." This one is unusual.
While many countries mount screenings of their latest films in the U.S., at French fests such as Sarasota or COL-COA, the Russian film industry, which wants more distribution of their films in North America--like everyone else--have imported, at some expense, reps from about 20 companies to Moscow to show them 20 new films.
On Wednesday, a group of Angelenos flew non-stop overnight first class on Aeroflot to Moscow. We got to see how the VIP class lives--special lane to the LA ticket counter and the Aeroflot lounge with snacks, drinks and wifi, where I feverishly try to get the blog in shape before 11 hours offline.
Digital distribution expert Peter Broderick and producer Midge Sanford already downloaded some of the films; so did Fox's Tony Safford and Roadside's Howard Cohen and Eric D'Arbeloff, who emailed me stats on how few Russian films have been shown in America, and how little money they made. On the line to the tram to the plane, I meet Gwenael Deglise, a French woman who has worked for years programming at the American Cinematheque. She's putting together a contemporary Russian program.
The jet flies North along the California coast in the western sun, over the grid of Sonoma farmland and water glittering on Lake Tahoe, then heads Northeast over Canada and Greenland to Moscow. The LA gang in first class sipping champagne and munching strange fish hors d'oeuvres includes a gaggle of studio and indie acquisitions execs and distributors. (Yes! There's an outlet to charge my computer.) I start to memorize numbers and alphabet from a Russian cheat sheet: three is tree, wine is vino, cafe is kophe, hello is allo, computer is kompyeuter, basically, and telephone is telephon. I repeat the word for thank you: "Spahseebah."
Safford emails me the Roubles/Dollar exchange rate--it's about 33 roubles to the dollar. After supper, I pull the blinds to block the sun and watch one of the Russian hits in the U.S., "Russian Ark," Alexandr Sokurov's 2002 delirious one-take waltz through Russian history at St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum, which we will visit on Monday. Then my seatmate, CBS Films' Scott Shooman, and I tilt our seats back and sleep.