Russian Directors Lobby for Future of Lenfilm

Alexander Sokurov and Alexei German protest against planned merger with Russian World Studios.

Renowned Russian directors Alexander Sokurov and Alexei German are protesting against plans for a merger between the country’s oldest film studio Lenfilm and Russian World Studios (RWS). The two directors, who have worked at the studio for many years, are worried that Lenfilm could lose its role as a production base for independent and non-commercial cinema.

“A merger with Russian World Studios would mean the end of Lenfilm as a cultural and historic national asset and an independent producer of high-quality cinema product,” they wrote in an open letter sent to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin earlier this month.

Privatization plans for St Petersburg-based Lenfilm have been discussed for several years, but, more recently, the idea has been to establish a “state-private partnership” between the state-owned studio and RWS, which already has a studio complex in St Petersburg.

In their letter, the two directors insist that the government has already made a decision to merge Lenfilm in a joint venture with RWS, in which the government would have a 25 percent stake. According to the directors, if that it to happen, the studio will be primarily focused on commercial rather than artistic cinema.

Alexander Pozdnayakov, an aide to Lenfilm’s general director, told The Hollywood Reporter that private investment would benefit the studio, but only within a state-private partnership with RWS, not its total privatization. “The studio badly needs investment,” he said. “The building is nearly deteriorating.”

A spokesman for AFK Sistema, the owner of RWS, told The Hollywood Reporter that the company is interested in preserving Lenfilm’s brand, personnel and traditions, but the specifics of the state-private partnership have not yet been finalized and it isn’t clear how long the process might take.

Meanwhile, some Russian media reported that if the studio is privatized, but not taken over by RWS, it could cease to exist altogether as some investor could buy it for the lucrative plot of land.