Russias Central Partnership Unveils Fall Slate at Toronto Film Festival (EXCLUSIVE)
Russian production and distribution powerhouse Central Partnership has unveiled a slate of upcoming releases at the Toronto International Film Festival, which Variety can reveal exclusively.
Among the films they’ll be introducing to foreign buyers are the latest blockbuster from Sergey Mokritskiy, whose 2015 WWII epic “Battle of Sevastopol” sold worldwide after conquering the Russian box office; an actioner based on a true story of heroism during the Syrian War; and a trilogy following the exploits of the beloved fictional character Ostap Bender.
“In Russia we are the major producer and distributor of local titles, and we will continue strengthening this position by working with our filmmakers on creating truly international content that suits the widest audience not only locally but in the world,” says Central Partnership CEO Vadim Vereschagin. “Our slate has become more diverse as we continue our efforts in bringing the best of Russian cinematography to international audiences.”
“The First Oscar” (pictured) is a WWII drama about rival students in Moscow competing to get ahead in film school and win the heart of a beautiful classmate. As war approaches, all three volunteer to serve on the front line, where they witness both the horrors of war and the heroism of Soviet soldiers. The experience changes their attitude towards art and life, allowing them to film unique footage that will make history. Produced by Natalia Mokritskaya (“Battle of Sevastopol,” “Jumpman,” “Zoology”), the film is inspired by the true story of the making of “Moscow Strikes Back,” which won the Academy Award for best documentary feature in 1943. “The First Oscar” is in post-production and slated for a 2022 release.
Director Igor Zaytsev is at the helm of an already completed trilogy that follows the fictional character Ostap Bender on the hunt for imperial gold. As the story unfolds a priceless scepter, a treasure that could secure a worry-free life in sunny Rio de Janeiro for Ibrahim Bender and his young apprentice Ostap, has slipped from under their noses and ended up in possession of an anarchist army commander. As the hunt intensifies, Ostap and Ibrahim must do everything in their power to outmaneuver their rivals, even as Ostap has to fight to win back his fair maiden and stop her from marrying another man. The films are produced by Aleksander Tsekalo and Ivan Samokhvalov.
“Mission ‘Sky’” is an action film based on a true story from the Syrian War. Lieutenant colonel Oleg Soshnikov and captain Konstantin Muravyov are deployed to Khmeimim Air Base in Syria. During a combat flight their plane is shot down. Both pilots eject, but only one of them returns home alive. Directed by Igor Kopylov and produced by Kopylov, Inessa Yurchenko and Sergey Scheglov, the film is slated for an Oct. 7 release in Russia.
Central Partnership will also continue sales on “100 Minutes,” from director Gleb Panfilov, following its world premiere at the Locarno Film Festival. Inspired by Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s classic “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich,” the film explores the fate of Soviet soldiers who upon returning home from WWII were sentenced to hard labor in Siberia, branded as traitors or accused of collaborating with the Nazis. The film questions how they managed to stay human against all odds. Panfilov won Locarno’s Golden Leopard in 1969 for his debut feature, “No Path Through Fire,” and took home a Golden Bear in Berlin in 1979 for “The Theme.” Produced by Maksim Panfilov, Anton Zlatopolsky (“Three Seconds,” “T-34”) and Irina Savina, “100 Minutes” will be released in Russia on Sept. 23.
Also on Central Partnership’s slate are three films preparing for theatrical release in the final months of 2021. “Row 19” is a psychological thriller centered on a young doctor and her 6-year-old daughter whose redeye flight gets caught in a terrible storm. “The Pilot: A Battle for Survival” is a WWII survival drama about a fighter pilot who crash lands in a remote forest clearing and is forced to battle the elements and enemy soldiers while finding his way back to friendly territory. And “The World Champion” is a drama based on the legendary 1978 chess match between Soviet world champion Anatoly Karpov and the dissident Viktor Korchnoi.
With COVID case numbers declining from summer peaks as Russia coped with the pandemic’s third wave, Vereschagin says audiences are eager to return to cinemas. “The Russian theatrical market is feeling more or less healthy as long as the right content that connects with the Russian audience is available,” he says. While the international theatrical market remains uncertain, he adds, “globally platform business has been a huge success in the past two years,” with Central Partnership productions “Silver Skates” and “Chernobyl” making it onto Netflix top five lists around the world.
“As for the global positioning our goal is to become a well-known player that provides diverse content to global audiences,” Vereschagin continues. “In order to do that it’s not only important to work with domestic talent but also look at international co-production and co-investment opportunities.” Upcoming projects include Central Partnership’s first co-production with Latin American powerhouse BF Films, the horror film “Schizophrenic,” and “Boundless,” a story of the first round-the-world journey conducted by the explorers Magellan and Elcano, which the company co-financed.
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