Documentaries Criticizing Russia Have No Chance to Get the State Support

1. 6. 2015

Author: Filip Šebek

On Monday, June 22, 2015 from 08:45 p.m. in Světozor Cinema, there will be a screening of an multi-award-winning Russian documentary Blood. This black-and-white film follows the work of the medical team from a mobile blood donation center, which attends small Russian towns as if it was a traveling circus. Its director, Alina Rudnitskaya, managed to point out the dismal state of the country, whose unemployed residents often take blood donation for the main source of income, with a surprising amount of humor through the tragicomic situations. The film has also been selected for KineDok screenings, so it is also possible to see it at non-traditional venues during the whole year within this project organized by Institute of Documentary Film.

Why have you decided to make a documentary about blood donation? Was the main reason the fact that in Russia, blood donation is the main source of income for a lot of people?
I have read an article in the magazine. There was a discussion about whether it was necessary to change the payment for blood donation. (to be correct this is not officially a payment for blood but a compensation for food). Should this payment be cancelled, will people still go and donate blood for free? Is it right to pay for blood? Who are the donors?
Thus, I've found out that there is some payment for blood donation. And this sum varies from region to region. In Leningrad region where the shootings took place, the price is 850 rubles (20€) for 450 ml, and in Moscow and Moscow region you can get the highest price in Russia - 1 600 rubles (40€) for the same amount of blood (450 ml). And everywhere people stand in queues since night to donate blood. The idea of making a film on this theme came to my mind as I knew how people live in a province. Thus the image of a bus with doctors travelling in a province and collecting blood appeared.

Blood is the second film in a planned triptych of “hospital films“. How difficult was it for you to spend such a long time in such “depressive“ environment as the hospital?
It was very emotionally tough to shoot in a hospital. You start to look for all kind of illnesses by yourself. At the beginning I was thinking of a trilogy on a medical topic, but I have realized that I can't come back to the hospital now, decided to postpone the third film for a while and to shoot something positive. For example, a film about relationships between men and women.

On the other hand, in your film there are some humorous scenes with comic aspect based on tragic things. In one interview you have mentioned, that you like the way Miloš Forman worked with tragicomic aspects in his early films. It’s great to hear that you like and understand this kind of humor. Polish people for example, when they find something strange and incomprehensible, say that it is “like a Czech film“. Do you think that Russians will appreciate these tragicomic aspects even if they might make Russia look bad?
I was influenced by Czech cinematography of the 60s and 70s, because I am a fan of black and white movies. I like the ironical films by Miloš Forman as well as the bitter tragicomic films by Jiří Menzel and the paradoxical women's world in the films by Věra Chytilová. Tragicomedy is my favourite genre. Laugh through tears. Life is very paradoxical, not only black or white. Everything has its own contrast: birth - death, love - hate. People are multilayered personalities. I look for the inner collisions and such situations in which people react in various manners. They cooperate and sometimes contradict and get in conflicts with each other. And one more aspect - I live in Russia where the situation often changes 180 degrees: yesterday one kind of values was acclaimed and today the values are quite different. And if you don't have a good sense of humor you can get depressed. We live in spite of it. And I try to catch it in my films.

Your film was and still is very successful at international film festivals. How was it accepted in Russia and how do your protagonists like it?
The audience was divided. Some of them accused me of showing Russia in unpleasant light, the others acclaimed the film for a truthful point of view. I think that this is a goal of the art - to point out the problem.

What is the situation in current Russia concerning the state support for documentary filmmakers? Do the authorities support films even if they are not sure, whether they would show Russia in a “favourable light”?
The State supports the film production in general. But the financial support for documentaries is very low - around 15 000 €. Thus there is a necessity to look for a co-producer and to pitch the projects. Moreover, our Ministry of culture has declared that films that criticize Russia will not get the state financial support. I think it's a mistake! We shouldn't be afraid to face the problems and we should solve them, nothide them! And the aim of documentaries is to point it out. That's why we now have so many independent filmmakers who produce films without the State. That's the reason why the festival Artdocfest as a platform for the best independent documentary films was deprived the state financial support. But as I said earlier, life is a paradoxical thing. This minister's statement led to a growing interest in documentaries among the youth. There are a few independent places where new Russian documentaries can be seen. For example, Artdocfest, that didn't get any grant from the Ministry of culture, was held in the three biggest cities for the first time - Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and Riga, in spite of everything. The audience interest was so high that it was even impossible to get tickets for some screenings.

You also made a short film for Russian LGBT film festival Side By Side. I know that there is a big hatred against the LGBT community in Russia, weren’t you afraid to make it?
We were not afraid to shoot the film. I am really grateful to the protagonists who were not afraid and let us in their private lives and told us how they live in Russia today. It was very important for me to show the fear that Russian LGBT community feels today. But I hope that the society doesn't stagnate, and will continue its development and in a few years the situation will change. That's why I think it's so important to speak about this problem.

Do you feel there is some kind of censorship in present-day Russia from the state media? If so, what does it look like and how does it affect ordinary people?
There is a censorship in the State mass media today. But people have alternatives - the internet, cinema clubs, film festivals. People travel and watch the world around. Everyone can make his or her own conclusions and take responsibility to chose to be influenced by the propaganda or not. That's why the main task of documentary filmmakers is to bring the alternative point of view to the audience. The wider the spectre of opinions is, the quicker the society will change. But the censorship is not able to stop the process of change that is now happening in Russia.

Your film is also a part of our project KineDok, which is an alternative distribution platform, connecting both the fans and makers of creative documentary. How do you like this project and do you have something similar in Russia? I feel, that if the state doesn´t support documentary authors, these alternative projects can be the way…
I like project KineDok.This is a wonderful possibility to acquaint the audience with Russian independent films. I think my films are versatile, because they mention universal questions, which can be clear to any country and make audience think over and look at ourselves from the other side; maybe even laugh at ourselves. I hope KineDok audience will appreciate this.

back to articles
This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more.