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Russia’s Andrey Konchalovsky’s ‘Dear Comrades’ praised by critics at the Venice Film Festival

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Dear Comrades, the film directed by renowned Russian Director Andrey Konchalovsky, received numerous accolades from the critics at the Venice Film Festival this year. The 77th International Film Festival, the first major event in the art world since the global lockdown, is about to conclude in Venice tomorrow (12 September). The festival’s main program featured 18 films, including works from United States (Nomadland by Chloé Zhao and The World to Come by Mona Fastvold), Germany (And Tomorrow the Entire World by Julia von Heinz), Italy (The Macaluso Sisters by Emma Dante and Padrenostro by Claudio Noce), France (Lovers by Nicole Garcia), among others.

The widespread critical acclaim was recieved by the the "Dear Comrades" film, the historical drama directed by Russia’s Andrey Konchalovsky and produced by the Russian philanthropist and businessman Alisher Usmanov. Usmanov is also the primary patron of the film.

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The stylistic black-and-white Dear Comrades tells the story of a Soviet-era tragedy. In summer of 1962, employees at one of the largest enterprises in the country - a local electric locomotive plant in Novocherkassk - went to a peaceful rally, demonstrating against rises in the cost of basic food necessities, coupled with an increase in the production rate, which led to a reduction in wages.

With other city residents joining the striking factory workers, the protest became widespread. According to law enforcement officers, around five thousand people took part. The demonstration was quickly and brutally suppressed by armed military units. More than 20 people including bystanders died as a result of the shooting in the square near the city administration building, with a further 90 injured, according to the official version of events. The real number of victims, which many believe to be greater than the official data, is still unknown. More than a hundred participants in the riots were subsequently convicted, seven of which were executed.

It is believed that this tragedy brought about the end of the "Khrushchev thaw" and the beginning of a long era of stagnation both in the economy and the country’s mentality.  This tragic moment in Soviet history was immediately classified and only made public in the late 1980s. Despite this, many details have not become public knowledge and have received little academic attention until now. The film’s director and screenwriter Andrei Konchalovsky had to reconstruct the events, collect archive documents and talk with the descendants of eyewitnesses who also took part in the shooting.

At the heart of the movie is the story of the ideological and uncompromising character Lyudmila, a staunch communist. Her daughter, sympathizing with the protesters, disappears among the intense chaos of the demonstrations. This is a definitive moment which sees Lyudmila's once unshakable convictions begin to lose stability. “Dear comrades!” are the first words of a speech she prepares to deliver before the Communist Party members, intending to expose the “enemies of the people”. But Lyudmila never finds the strength to deliver this speech, going through the most difficult personal drama, which strips her of her ideological commitment.

It is not the first time Konchalovsky has addressed historical themes. Having started his career in early 1960s, he explored a number of different genres (those included popular Hollywood releases like Maria's Lovers (1984), Runaway Train (1985), and Tango & Cash (1989), starring Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell), while his later work focuses on historical dramas deconstructing complicated personalities and fates.

This is also not the first time Konchalovsky has been nominated at the Venice Film Festival: in 2002, his House of Fools was awarded a Special Jury prize, while Konchalovsky has received two Silver Lions for best director: The Postman’s White Nights (2014) and Paradise (2016), the latter of which was Konchalovsky’s first experience collaborating with Russian metals and tech tycoon, the renowned philanthropist Alisher Usmanov, who stepped in as one of the film’s producers. Their most recent film Sin, which was also a huge success, tells the story of the life of the renowned Renaissance sculptor and painter Michelangelo Buonarroti. Vladimir Putin notably gifted a copy of the film to Pope Francis in 2019.

While we will never know whether the Pope enjoyed Sin, Konchalovsky’s new historical drama Dear Comrades seemingly won the hearts of the critics in Venice this year. The film, unlike many other works released recently in Russia, is a highly original piece of cinema, which simultaneously perfectly captures the atmosphere and feeling of the era, and encapsulates the detailed contradictions that reigned in Soviet society at the time.

The film does not uphold its own political agenda, offers no straight lines or definitive answers, but neither does it make any compromises, offering an intense attention to historical detail. It is also an attempt to offer a balanced picture of the time. The director said on the Soviet era: “We went through a dramatic but extremely pivotal historical period that gave the country a powerful impetus.”

Dear Comrades gives Western viewers the chance to gain a broad understanding of Russia through an accurate depiction of the Soviet era and its characters. The movie is far from being a typical Hollywood production, which we expect viewers to find refreshing. The film will be in cinemas from November.

Andrei Konchalovsky

Andrei Konchalovsky is an acclaimed Russian film director known for his compelling dramas and visceral depictions of life in the Soviet Union. His notable works include Siberiade (1979), Runaway Train (1985), The Odyssey (1997), The Postman's White Nights (2014) and Paradise (2016).

Konchalovsky’s works have earned him a number of accolades, including the Cannes Grand Prix Spécial du Jury, a FIPRESCI Award, two Silver Lions, three Golden Eagle AwardsPrimetime Emmy Award, as well as a number of international state decorations.

Alisher Usmanov

Alisher Usmanov is a Russian billionaire, entrepreneur and philanthropist who has made substantial contributions to the arts since the early stages of his career. Over the past 15 years, according to Forbes, Usmanov's companies and his foundations have directed more than $2.6 billion to the charity ends. He has also notably promoted Russian art abroad, has supported the restoration of historical buildings and monuments internationally. Usmanov is the founder of the Art, Science and Sport Foundation, a charity, which partners with many of preeminent cultural institutions.

EU

LUX Audience Award 2021 goes to 'Collective'

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President David Sassoli awarded the 2021 LUX Audience Award to Collective during a ceremony in Strasbourg today (9 June).

“After the period we have just lived through, the need for people to come together, not only in spaces made for debate, but also in places like cinemas, is growing and urgent," said David Maria Sassoli (S&D, IT during the ceremony, which took place in Strasbourg as well as online.

The other two films shortlisted for the award were: Another Round by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg and Corpus Christi by Polish director Jan Komasa.

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Read more about the LUX Audience Award nominees.

The final ranking was determined by combining the average rating from the public vote and the vote by MEPs, with each group weighing 50%.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the creative and cinema industry hard. Cinema screenings of the three finalists were limited, and were primarily replaced by online screenings and events. Audiences could rate the films until 23 May, MEPs until 8 June.

About the winning film

Collective by Romanian director Alexander Nanau (original title Colectiv)

This stirring documentary is titled after a nightclub in Bucharest where a fire killed 27 young people in 2015 and left 180 wounded. The documentary follows a team of journalists who investigate why 37 of the burn victims died in hospitals, although their wounds were not life threatening. They uncover terrifying nepotism and corruption that cost lives, but also show that brave and determined people can reverse corrupt systems.

Collective was nominated for an Oscar in the best international feature and best documentary categories this year.

Press conference and related events

Follow the press conference with the winner, the other finalists, the European Film Academy and Sabine Verheyen (EPP, Germany), the chair of the culture committee, from 13.15 to 14.00 CET.

Tune in to our Facebook live with the winner at 14h CET.

Interested in European cinema post Covid-19? Check out the webinar on the LUX award Facebook page.

LUX Audience Award

With the LUX Audience Award, a unique pan-European audience prize, Parliament teams up with the European Film Academy to reach a wider audience and to continue to strengthen the links between people and politics. Through its film prize, Parliament has been supporting the distribution of European films since 2007, by providing subtitles in 24 EU languages for the films in final contention. The LUX prize has garnered a reputation by selecting European co-productions that engage with topical political and social issues and encourage debate about values.

The European Commission and Europa Cinemas network are also partners in the LUX Awar

Further information

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EU

LUX audience week: Watch films and rate them

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Find out where you can watch the films nominated for the 2021 LUX Audience Award in your country and how to vote for your favourite, EU affairs.

Thomas Vinterberg’s Oscar winning Another Round, Collective by Alexander Nanau and Corpus Christi by Jan Komasa (nominated for Oscars in 2021 and 2020 respectively) are the three films shortlisted for the European Parliament and European Film Academy’s 2021 LUX Audience Award.

How to watch

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You can watch all three films free during the LUX Audience week from 10 to 16 May online and subtitled into your language.

Catch the live debate with the three directors on Facebook on Friday 14 May from 5pm CET.

Competing films

Another Round by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (original title Druk)

Have you heard of a Norwegian psychologist’s obscure theory that a small amount of alcohol in our blood opens our minds, increases creativity and keeps us happy? Four high school teachers experiment with it, but what first seems to offer a cure for a mid-life crisis goes off the rails. Vinterberg‘s movie is not only about drinking. It has a deeper message about how to face life’s highs and lows and be honest about them.

Another Round won the 2021 Oscar for best international feature. Leonardo DiCaprio's production company is planning an English-language remake.

Collective by Romanian director Alexander Nanau (original title Colectiv)

This stirring documentary is titled after a nightclub in Bucharest where a fire killed 27 young people in 2015 and left 180 wounded. The documentary follows a team of journalists who investigate why 37 of the burn victims died in hospitals although their wounds were not life threatening. They uncover terrifying nepotism and corruption that cost lives, but also show that brave and determined people can reverse corrupt systems.

Collective was nominated for an Oscar in the best international feature and best documentary categories this year.

Corpus Christi by Polish director Jan Komasa (original title Boże Ciało)

The film is based partly on the real story of a young convict who experiences a spiritual transformation and wants to become a priest. By a twist of fate, he ends up taking responsibility for a parish in a remote Polish village. As the story evolves, he confronts a tragic secret that is devouring the community. Through the story of this charismatic preacher, Komasa reflects on what creates a community and what makes us susceptible to both fake and real leaders.

Corpus Cristi was nominated for an Oscar in the best international feature film category in 2020.

How to take part

This year the winner will be chosen by MEPs and audiences, each group accounting for 50% of the votes. Rate all three films from one to five stars on www.luxaward.eu by 23 May. You can change your rating and only your last vote will be counted. Vote to have the chance to attend the next European Film Awards ceremony in December 2021.

About the LUX Audience Award

The European Parliament launched the LUX Prize in 2007 with the aim of supporting the production and distribution of European films, stimulating reflection on current political and social issues and celebrating European culture.

This year, Parliament teamed up with the European Film Academy, the European Commission and Europa Cinemas network to bring the newly named LUX Audience Award to a wider audience.

All three finalists have been subtitled into the official EU languages. The winning film will also be adapted for the visually and audibly impaired.

LUX award 

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Billionaire and sustainability supporter Elena Baturina praises the creative potential of younger generation

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January 31st the submissions window closed for ‘Design for Sustainable Cities’, an international student competition in support of the United Nations’ SDG programme. The competition is co-organised by two great supporters of education in creative disciplines – BE OPEN creative think-tank and Cumulus Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media.

The competition was launched in October last year and invited students of creative disciplines from basically everywhere to develop their own innovative solutions to the challenges of SDG11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. These challenges include increased carbon emissions and resource use, growing number of slum dwellers, inadequate and overburdened infrastructure and services, worsening air pollution and unplanned urban sprawl, etc. The year of 2020 exposed another drastic problem of city dwellers – the danger of rapid spread of the virus in heavily populated areas.

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Both BE OPEN and Cumulus believe that the challenges of the new reality of our daily existence require new solutions; qualitative change is possible only through innovative action, and innovations are only born by bold, inquisitive, creative, out-of-the-box ways of thinking.

That is why the competition cries out to the creative youth, students and graduates of all art, design, architecture and media disciplines of universities and colleges worldwide to encourage them design ideas and projects that embody the principles and aims of United Nations’ SDG Programme.

BE OPEN will award the top ideas submitted by individuals or teams with cash prizes: the main prize winner will be chosen by the jury of design academics and professionals and get €5,000; €3,000 will go to the personal choice of BE OPEN’s founder Elena Baturina; the winner of €2,000 of the Public Vote prize will be selected by an open online vote; and a very important inaugural Safe City prize of €2,000 will be awarded to the solution that will be efficient in tackling the detrimental effect of the pandemic in a city.

We have asked Elena Baturina about the plans and aspirations she associates with the competition.

-               Why have you chosen SDG11 as a focus for the competition this year?

I am positive that the issues of urbanization carry unmatched importance in 2020. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are in many ways a direct response to the consequences of urbanization.

More than half of the world’s population now live in cities, and the percentage is projected to grow to 60% by 2030. This growth goes hand in hand with so many problems that affect well-being of billiards of people. We must admit that traditional measures cannot cope with that scope and ‘evolution’ of these problems, so we desperately need creative thinking – design thinking - and creative action to handle those. Design has a crucial role to play as an instrument or achieving the UN SDGs.

-               Tell us about the current stage of the ongoing competition?

Well, we have once again joined forces with the wonderful Cumulus Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media. Together we feel we are able to reach out to most schools that teach creative disciplines worldwide and therefore create an opportunity for as many students as possible to benefit from this competition.

We are past the submissions deadline, and starting with February, our teams and the jury will set to the harsh yet exciting task of selecting the top projects that will further compete for the prizes. We already have hundreds of submissions from all over the world, and those I have seen are very promising.

-               How meaningful their response seems to you?

The entries are full of good thinking, proper research and great intentions. Of course, they are not meant to save the world overnight, but they are about minor steps, translatable and feasible for the absolute majority of people worldwide, that will actually work.

That is why I am so hopeful that this competition will drive more engagement with young designers and their sustainable solutions from the SDG-focused businesses, state and public bodies that can actually bring them to reality.

-               What do you personally look for in the winning submission?

As you probably know, I am first of all a person of business. So I can’t help looking at projects from a practical perspective, with the ‘how we can actually do it’ approach in mind. That is why, I am looking at how well-researched the solution is, will it be in demand, how feasible it is, are there resources at hand to make it work, is it scalable etc. So, the Founder’s Choice winner must be a pragmatic solution.

-               What does sustainability means to you personally?

At my end, investment has been allocated to sustainability-related businesses, such as solar energy production, energy-efficiency technologies, membrane engineering. As for my everyday life, I try to make positive shifts to greater sustainability as we all should, starting with little yet consistent everyday steps that may not seem that huge an impact, but are necessary to make sustainability part of our joined future.

-               Does BE OPEN now account for the possibility of a new pandemic while developing your projects?

Well, we all do. There is an unpredictability factor in everything now, right? But we have been doing well this year, due to the fact that BE OPEN has always had a well-established online presence that helps us easily connect and engage with audiences from all over the world.

With this competition, we can easily carry out all stages safely and with social distancing observed, the only thing that would require a public gathering is the awards ceremony. But even if we have to cancel it once again, we promise that we will not only celebrate the winners online, but do our best to showcase their ideas and talent to as wide public and as many stakeholders as possible.

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