On September 22, it became known that Russia will no longer compete for the Oscar film award. The Russian Oscar committee, which was involved in selecting films, suspended its work. Documentary maker and member of the Oscar committee Vitaly Mansky considers it a mistake that the American Film Academy was the first to not ban Russia from participating in the competition. According to Mansky, the chances that a Russian film in a situation of war with Ukraine would be nominated by American academics for an Oscar are zero. The director is convinced that Russia has no right to participate in the international competition at all, and today’s statement by Russian filmmakers is just a propaganda manipulation.
“If in sports the Olympic Committee expressed, albeit a hybrid, but understandable position on the participation of Russian athletes in competitions, the American Film Academy is silent. Therefore, de jure Russia could put forward a film. But it would have no chance,” Mansky is sure. – Yes, and now in Russia there is no cinema that could claim significance. That’s why Russia went ahead. I understand that Mikhalkov’s position there is very strong, and this is largely his decision. Perhaps not only Nikita Mikhalkov, but also his brother, because Andron Konchalovsky was always focused on winning an Oscar, like his brother (Konchalovsky’s films House of Fools, Paradise, Dear Comrades were nominated for Oscars – approx. Ed.), and now it is clear that such a chance will no longer exist. The Russian Oscar committee simply recognized the pointlessness of nominating Russian cinema.”
Nikita Mikhalkov (left) and Andrei KonchalovskyPhoto: Vyacheslav Prokofyev/TASS/dpa/picture alliance
“The Oscar race is always a legal form of promoting the cinema of a particular country. It is an entry into markets, attracting attention, the possibility of release in new territories. In today’s conditions, all this is irrelevant for Russia. Due to the fact that the Oscar is the first did not come up with a healthy and fair ban on participation in Russian cinema competition, it gave the opportunity for such manipulation and propaganda action on the part of the internal Russian film elite,” says Vitaly Mansky.
Russia and the Oscars. Background
Every year, the Oscars are awarded in the category “Best Foreign Language Film,” among other awards. The procedure for nominating a film is described in the rules of the award: a country that wants to nominate a film must have an Oscar-approved professional organization that includes the country’s film producers. They are nominating the best film produced over the past year. From all the films submitted from different countries, after voting by film academics, a shortlist of Oscar nominees is formed. Over the past 10 years, two Russian films have been nominated for the award: “Loveless” and “Leviathan” by Andrei Zvyagintsev.
Director Andrey Zvyagintsev (right) and producer Alexander Rodnyansky. Los Angeles, 2018Photo: Chris Pizzello/AP/picture alliance
The Commission for Nominating Russian Cinema for the Oscar Award in the category “Best Foreign Language Film” (Russian Oscar Committee) consists of Russian Oscar winners and nominees, as well as directors and producers whose films have received the main prizes at “class” festivals. A”. For almost 20 years, starting in 2002, the Oscar committee was headed by director Vladimir Menshov, winner of the 1981 Oscar for the film “Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears.” After his death in 2021, the post was taken over by Pavel Chukhrai, whose film “The Thief” was nominated for an Oscar in 1998.
Already last year, 2022, there was a split in the Russian Oscar committee. The Presidium of the Russian Film Academy unilaterally decided not to nominate a domestic film for the Oscars in 2022. Although by that time a long list of films for nomination from Russia had already been formed, which included 122 films. Members of the Russian Oscar committee did not agree with the decision of the Film Academy. Then its chairman Pavel Chukhrai, as well as directors Andrei Zvyagintsev, Nikolai Dostal and others, left the committee.
The last film that the committee nominated for the award was the drama “Unclenching Fists” by Kira Kovalenko in 2021.
Russian cinema. Do you have something to show the world?
Vitaly Mansky believes that in 2023 Russia has nothing to offer the international film community: “Those Russian filmmakers who could qualify for an Oscar live outside Russia and outside the jurisdiction of the Russian Oscar committee. Zvyagintsev, for example, works in France.”
Documentary director Vitaly ManskyPhoto: Sergei Savostyanov/dpa/picture alliance
“Last year, a feature-length documentary about Navalny and the Russian agenda received an Oscar. If there were some powerful anti-war Russian-language cinema now, it could qualify for the award,” Mansky is sure. “But today in Russia, leading filmmakers have distanced themselves from process, and those who remained inside the country make too many compromises in our uncompromising times. The main thing that could be interesting to the world in Russian cinema is the theme of war, responsibility for war, understanding of war. This is not in the documentary “, nor in feature films, where censorship is especially strong. I don’t understand what kind of film message Russia could send to the international community today.”
On his social networks, producer Alexander Rodnyansky, whose films were nominated for Oscars and who was also a member of the Russian Oscar committee, spoke on the topic of Russia’s participation in the international film awards. “A year ago, when Russia for the first time refused to choose a film that would represent the country in competition for the main world film award, I supported this decision. Over the past year, my opinion has not changed. But not at all for the reasons that Russian propaganda likes to voice: not because that someone is “cancelling” Russian culture and “surrounding it with bans” in the West. This is nonsense. But because a country waging a criminal war should not take part in the Oscar race if it cannot speak directly and honestly about what is happening, – notes Rodnyansky. – “Oscars” go to films that speak about time. The authors of which are keenly aware of what is happening to their countries, their tragedies, problems and crimes. Be it Poland, Iran or Germany. And where are these films in today’s Russia? <...> I am sure that there are authors in the country capable of creating such films. And we will definitely see Russian films that directly talk about the war <...>. But when?”
Mstislav Chernov at the Sundance Festival, 2023Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/picture alliance
Ukraine in the current Oscar race will be represented by the film “20 days in Mariupol”. “This documentary film by war correspondent Mstislav Chernov tells about the events of the first weeks of the war, when the Russian army began to attack the city,” explains Rodnyansky. “The terrible episodes of the bombing of residential buildings in the city, rocket attacks on a maternity hospital, the lives of people in a city besieged by the Russians are the author’s focus. film, its producer Vasilisa Stepanova and the famous photographer Evgeniy Maloletki who worked with them.” This year, the film “20 Days in Mariupol” has already received the Audience Award at the Sundance Independent Film Festival in the USA.
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