Golden Globes: 'Leviathan' Scores First Russian Win Since 1969's 'War and Peace'

Best Foreign Film

Force Majeure (Sweden)
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (France)
Ida (Poland)
Leviathan (Russia)
Tangerines (Estonia)

The film, produced by Alexander Rodnyansky, could next go for Oscar gold

The producer and director of Russia's Golden Globe-winning film Leviathan are hoping for another victory at next month's Oscars.

Andrey Zvyaginstev's film, set in Russia and a thoroughly contemporary Russian context but inspired by a true story from America's Midwest, which won best foreign-language film honors Sunday night, is the first Russian movie to win a Golden Globe since Sergey Bondarchuk's War and Peace in 1969.

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Producer Alexander Rodnyansky — who also produced Stalingrad, directed by Fedor Bondarchuk, whose father directed War and Peace  —  and the team behind Leviathan is now hoping to win an Oscar for best foreign-language film at the Academy Awards ceremony Feb. 22 at Hollywood's Dolby Theater.

"Waiting for the results and getting the award was very exciting," Zvyaginstev told Russian radio station Echo of Moscow. "We are hoping to do it again at the Oscars."

Rodnyansky, who was seen onstage Sunday night alongside the director as they accepted the Golden Globe, told The Hollywood Reporter that the filmmakers were, "incredibly honored by the recognition of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association," organizers of the Golden Globes.

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"It is the first time since 1969 that a Russian film has won a Golden Globe, and this is a huge responsibility for us," Rodnyansky said.

"Leviathan represents everything that is important in Russian culture," he added. "It continues the tradition of great Russian writers and artists who have always spoken about the most important issues faced by our country even in the most troubling times."

He added: "We are also heartened by the incredibly favorable reaction that we have seen in Russia. … I am confident that when Leviathan is finally released theatrically in Russia on Feb. 5, audiences will go to see it."

The decision to delay the release of the film, which premiered last year at Cannes, where it won best script, was made by its producers who wanted the film's release timed to awards season.

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The film, which tells the story of a family man who loses his home and much more due to the rapacious greed of a local mayor, is widely regarded as a searing social comment on Russia's current political environment and government, although Zvyaginstev has been at pains to insist it is a story for all times and societies.

Russia's Kremlin-loyalist culture minister Vladimir Medinsky, who has publicly stated his personal disliked for the film, said Monday was that he was "glad" the film had won a Golden Globe. The win proved that Russian cinema was "at a very high level," he told Russia newspaper Gazeta.

Echo of Moscow radio, in a blog comment, noted that the film was "a showcase of all negative stereotypes about Russia. … Do not be surprised if it gets an Oscar, it is so smeared with Russian filth."

Leviathan's protagonist, Kolya, whom Zvyaginstev has likened to the biblical character Job, is played by Russian actor Alexey Serebryakov, who immigrated to Canada two years ago after announcing that he did not want his children to grow up in Russia where "tolerance and kindness [are] rare."

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Early Sunday, just hours before Leviathan's Golden Globe win, a pirated copy appeared on Russian illegal download sites. Rodnyansky said the source was an Academy member's screener.

"While as a producer I am of course troubled by this I can't help but feel proud and pleased by the overwhelmingly positive reception of our film that I have seen in Russian social media as well as major publications," Rodnyansky said.

Access to the illegally uploaded file on Russia's biggest tracker of pirated content, Rutracker, was soon blocked in response to the rights holder's request, but the pirated copy of the film was still available on smaller Russian torrent trackers as of early Monday.

Rodnyansky said he would not seek prosecution of those guilty of pirating the film. "We won't prosecute anyone," Russian News Service quoted him as saying. "We are trying to shut down pirate websites, but we are glad when the film raises discussion. Viewers have reacted positively, although we were afraid that the picture would polarize Russian society."

Jan. 12, 11:04 a.m. An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Fedor Bondarchuk produced Leviathan. THR regrets the error.