Russian Cinema Fund's International Department Shut Down

A new non-governmental organization is to take over some of its tasks but won’t be able to provide financial support.

The international department of the Russian Cinema Fund, which has been focused on international promotion of Russian films and fostering co-production and cooperation, has been closed down. Otkryty Mir (Open World), a newly formed non-governmental organization, is to assume some of the department responsibilities, but, unlike the department, it won’t have access to government cash.

“The fund’s priorities have been changed, and the main task is to increase the proportion of local films in the total box office,” Yelena Romanova, former head of the international department, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So, all activities that are not directly linked to that task, are being shut down.”

According to Romanova, all international agreements signed by the department over its two-year period of existence, are being canceled. Those include the Russian-German, Russian-French and Russian-Italian film academies, the Russian-German coproduction fund and an agreement with Marche du cinema, which co-organized the first edition of Red Square Screenings, a major international showcase of Russian films, held last October.

However, the agreements are expected to be re-signed by Russia’s culture ministry, which has emerged as the main agency in charge of the cinema industry, with the cinema fund’s role reduced to that of the ministry’s financial operator. But the ministry doesn’t have resources to run international tasks on a day-to-day basis, and they will be transferred to Open World, founded by Romanova.

“Founding [Open World] was an objective necessity,” she said. “Several major projects were launched between Russia and European partners, and just shutting them down would be a crime. They involve such important areas as film education and support to projects at the development stage.”

What differs the new organization from the cinema fund’s international department, however, is the absence of state cash. All activities are to be funded privately. One other difference is that Open World is to focus on international promotion of Russian culture in general, not just cinema.

Several major Russian film personalities have already joined Open World’s board of trustees, and the organization hopes to attract private business to fund its project, Romanova said.

“Still, [Open World] won’t be an adequate replacement for what we used to have, even though we would want it,” she concluded. “The international department provided financial support for co-production and international promotion of Russian films.”