Angelopoulos bringing 'Dust' to tiny town


MOSCOW -- Acclaimed Greek director Theo Angelopoulos plans to hold the first public showing of his next film, "The Dust of Time," in a modest 150-seat theater in a tiny steel town that stands frozen for most of the year in Kazakhstan's Karaganda region.

This is no stunt on the part of the award-winning director. He still hopes that the film will get a full-blown Festival de Cannes outing. But the first screening of "Dust" is his way of saying thanks to the townspeople of Temirtau -- some 1,500 of the town's 180,000 population signed up as extras or for other assignments in "Dust."

Speaking by telephone from Athens, Angelopoulos said that his time in Temirtau was a "terrible experience" because the organization was not very good and the shooting conditions were "extremely difficult." However, he found the local people "agreeable and eager to please" despite their lack of experience.

He has now completed location shooting in the former Soviet Union for "Dust." Throughout the winter, Angelopoulos shot scenes in Moscow, Kungur in the Perm region and in the Gorodetsky region near Nizhny Novgorod.

Production is to finish early next year, and the film is being groomed for Cannes, although the very first public showing of the film is planned for the people of Temirtau in their local cinema called Komsomolets.

The cast includes Irene Jacob, Bruno Ganz and Willem Dafoe.

Recounting the tough shoot, he noted, "The people themselves were not the problem. The problem was the lack of preparation and prior contact with film production. Something that should have been set up in a day took three or four days. The people of Temirtau are truly innocent of the situation. The fall of the Soviet Union spawned total irregularity and took something that was formerly productive and made it the opposite. There is a lack of historical and future perspective. The people work from day to day, and instead of advancing their times, they (merely) bear their times."

Angelopoulos, whose "Eternity and a Day" won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1998, said he has been to the former Soviet Union about 40 times. He scouted Russian locations for the film over a period of seven years and decided to film in Kazakhstan after seeing locations last year during a visit to the country's recently minted Eurasia Film Festival. The locations were chosen for their enduring Soviet infrastructure.

Filming will also take place in Greece, Germany and Italy -- countries where co-producers have contributed to the film's $12.3 million budget -- as well as in the U.S. and Canada.

"Dust" is Angelopoulos' first entirely English-language film and the second part of a trilogy that started with "The Weeping Meadow," which premiered in 2004 at the Berlin International Film Festival. The middle installment is about the tribulations of Greek immigrants to the Soviet Union. The film covers the period from 1953, around the time of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's death, to the year 2000 and takes place in the Soviet Union, on the Austrian-Hungarian border, in Italy and New York.