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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.

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.

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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.

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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Russian historian Oleg Kuznetsov's book reiterates Umberto Eco's warning about the Nazi threat

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Each of our readers, regardless of their nationality, political views, or religious beliefs, retains a part of the 20th-century pain in their soul. Pain and memory of those who died in the fight against Nazism. The history of the Nazi regimes of the last century, from Hitler to Pinochet, indisputably proves that the path to Nazism taken by any country has common features. Anyone who, under the guise of preserving the history of their country, rewrites or hides the true facts, does nothing but drag own people into the abyss while imposing this aggressive policy on neighboring states and the entire world.

 

In 1995, Umberto Eco, one of the most globally famous writers and author of such best-selling books as Foucault's Pendulum and The Name of the Rose, took part in a Symposium held by the Italian and French Departments of Columbia University in New York (on the day when the anniversary of the liberation of Europe from Nazism is celebrated). Eco addressed the audience with his essay Eternal Fascism that contained a warning to the entire world about the fact that the threat of fascism and Nazism persists even after the end of World War II. The definitions coined by Eco differ from the classical definitions of both fascism and Nazism. One should not look for clear parallels in his formulations or point out possible coincidences; his approach is quite special and speaks rather about the psychological features of a certain ideology that he labelled 'eternal fascism'. In the message to the world, the writer says that fascism begins neither with the Blackshirts' brave marches, nor with the destruction of dissenters, nor with wars and concentration camps, but with a very specific worldview and attitude of people, with their cultural habits, dark instincts and unconscious impulses. They are not true source of the tragic events that shake countries and entire continents.

Many writers still resort to this topic in their journalistic and literary works, while often forgetting that, in this case, artistic fiction is inapproriate, and sometimes criminal. Published in Russia, the book State Policy of Glorification of Nazism in Armenia by military  historian Oleg Kuznetsov reiterates Umberto Eco's words: «We need an enemy to give people hope. Someone said that patriotism is the last refuge of cowards; those without moral principles usually wrap a flag around themselves, and the bastards always talk about the purity of the race.  National identity is the last bastion of the dispossessed. But the meaning of identity is now based on hatred, on hatred for those who are not the same.  Hatred has to be cultivated as a civic passion.»

Umberto Ecp knew firsthand what fascism was, since he grew up under Mussolini's dictatorship. Born in Russia, Oleg Kuznetsov, just like almost every person of his age, developed his attitude to Nazism based not on publications and  films, but primarily in the testimonies of eyewitnesses who survived in World War II. Not being a politican but speaking on behalf of ordinary Russian people, Kuznetsov begins his book with the words the leader of his home country said on May 9, 2019, on the day when victory over fascism is celebrated: «Today we see how in a number of states they consciosky distort the events of war, how they idolize those who, having forgotten about honour and human dignity, served the Nazis, how they shamelessly lie to their children, betray their ancestors». The Nuremberg trials have always been and will continue to be an obstacle to the revival of Nazism and aggression as state policies – both in our days and in the future. The trials' results are a warning to all who see themselves as the chosen «rulers of the destinies» of states and peoples. The goal of the international criminal tribunal in Nuremberg was to condemn Nazi leaders (main ideological inspirers and headmen), as well as unjustifiably cruel actions and bloody outrages, not the entire German people.

In this regards, the UK representative to the trials said in his closing speech: « I repeat again that we do not seek to blame the people of Germany. Our goal is to protect him and give him the opportunity to rehabilitate himself and win the respect and friendship of the whole world.

But how can this be done if we leave in its midst unpunished and uncondemned these elements of Nazism which are mainly responsible for tyranny and crimes and which, as the tribunal can belive,  cannot be turned to the path of freedom and justice?»

Oleg Kuznetsov's book is a warning that is not aimed at inciting ethnic hatred between Armenia and Azerbaijan; it is a plea to common sense. The plea to exclude the falsification of historical facts (that make it possible to manipulate ordinary people) from the state policy. In his book, the author asks the question: «Glorification in various forms of Nazism in Armenia through memorialization of memory of the Nazi criminal Garegin Nzhdeh and his openly rasict theory of the tseharkon, the doctribe of the Armenian superman, is the subject of a purposefully and systematically conducted authorities and the Armenian diaspora have made such serious efforts in recent years to exalt the personality of Garegin Nzhdeh, and not someone else from among the Armenian nationalists who more contributed to the appearance of the Republic of Armenia on the political map of the world than Nzhdeh.»

Less than a year ago, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted a draft resolution (initiated by Russia) on combating «glorification of Nazism, neo-nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racis, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.» 121 states voted in favor of the document, 55 abstained, and two opposed it.

It is know that the issue of the unified struggle against Nazism and its modern followers has always been as fundamental for Azerbaijan and its political leadership (without any tolerance of even a slightest compromise) as it has been for Russia. President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly spoken – both at the United Nations assembly and at the meeting of the Council of CIS Heads of State – about the state policy of glorifying Nazism in Armenia, citing irrefutable facts to prove this assertion. At the meeting of CIS Council of Defence Ministers, President Aliyev not only supported Russia's policy to fight  Nazism and neo-Nazism on a global scale, but also expanded its scope, pointing to Armenia as the country of victorious Nazism. That said, Armenia's representatives to the UN always voted for the adoptions of the resolution calling for the fight against any manifestations of Nazism, while the leadership of their country openly erected monuments to the Nazi criminal Nzhdeh in the cities of Armenia, renamed avenues, streets, squares and parks in his honor, established medals, minted coins, issued postage stamps and financed films telling about his «heroic deeds». In other words, it did everything known as «glorification of Nazism» in the parlance of the relevant UN General Assemby resolution.

Armenia now has new government, but the authoritis are not in a hurry to eliminate the Nazi legacy of their predecessors, thus demonstrating their commitment to the practices of glorification of Nazism that had been adopted in the country prior to the coup that took place two years ago. The new leaders of Armenia, headed by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, could not or did not want to radically change the situation in their country – and found themselves either hostages or ideological continuators of glorification of Nazism that had been practiced before their coming to power. In his nook, Oleg Kuznetsov says: «Starting with the Millenium, the authorities of Armenia have completely consciously and purposefully pursued and, despite the change of the political regime in the country in May 2018, still pursue an internal 21 political course towards the nation's Nazification through state propaganda of the theory of tsehakron as a national ideology of all Armenians living both in Armenia and in diaspora, while simulating international efforts to combat glorification of Nazism and neo-Nazism in order to mask the cultivation of these phenomena in the territory under their control, including the occupied regions of Republic of Azerbaijan.»

Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian polar explorer and scientist, one noted: «The history of the Armenian people is a continuous experiment. Survival experiment». In what way will today's experiments carried out by Armenian's politicans and based on manipulations of historical facts affect the lives of ordinary residents of the country? The country that has given the world a number remarkable scientists, writers, and creative figures whose works were never marked with seal of Nazism. With Kuznetsov's book revealing the historical facts, those who studied the ideology of German Nazism in depth might develop a different attitude to the words said by the Germany and felt guilty towards his people until the end of his days. At the end of his life, he wrote: «History is a policy that can no longer be corrected. Politics is a history that can still corrected».

Oleg Kuznetsov

Oleg Kuznetsov

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LUKOIL’S Oil Pavilion named world's best project for use of Virtual Reality

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LUKOIL became a winner of the international IPRA Golden World Awards in four categories for the restoration of the historical Oil Pavilion at Moscow’s VDNKh. It is the largest Russian multimedia exhibition dedicated to applied science, which presents oil industry to its visitors through interactive installations.

The Oil Pavilion was awarded the status of the best global project in Gaming and virtual reality, Business-to-business, Media relations and Sponsorship categories.

This is the second LUKOIL’s IPRA Golden World Awards win; the Company received two awards last year. LUKOIL’s campaign to promote the city of Kogalym (Yugra) as a tourist centre of the West Siberia received awards as the world’s best project in Travel and tourism and Community engagement categories.

IPRA Golden World Awards (GWA) is the world’s most influential global public relations and communications competition.

IPRA GWA, established in 1990, recognizes excellence in public relations practice worldwide, taking into account such criteria as creativity, complexity of realization, and unique character of the project. World’s greatest communications and marketing experts and leaders, including representatives of the various largest enterprises, form the GWA jury.

 

 

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