St. Petersburg Filmmakers Concerned About Lenfilm's Future

They accuse the government of doing nothing and promise to take the situation into their own hands.

MOSCOW -- St. Petersburg-based filmmakers have said that the Russian government hasn’t done anything to save the country’s oldest film studio, Lenfilm, despite their address to the country’s top management six months ago and are working on their own strategy.

The situation around Lenfilm, which is in poor condition and desperately needs renovation, came to the limelight last August when renowned directors Alexander Sokurov and Alexei German sent an open letter to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, calling on him to step in and prevent the studio from losing its role as a production base for independent and non-commercial cinema. The filmmakers were primarily concerned about plans to privatize the studio and feared that someone could acquire it just for the lucrative plot of land in central St. Petersburg and convert the studio for other uses. The project of a “state/private partnership” with the Russian World Studios, which has a studio complex in St. Petersburg, also raised concerns about Lenfilm’s future.

Later, Sokurov had a meeting with Putin, who promised to look into the situation. “Unfortunately, no significant developments have taken place since that meeting,” Sokurov told a news conference in St. Petersburg. “Neither the property ministry nor the culture ministry have done anything. Moreover, we don’t even know who exactly is on the company’s board of directors.”

“We have made a decision to develop our own strategy [for the development of the studio], which will be ready by mid-May,” added producer Andrei Sigle, a member of Lenfilm’s public council. “We’ll try to take the current financial and technical state of the studio into account.”

“[In accordance with the strategy, Lenfilm] won’t be a commercial enterprise that creates blockbusters,” Sokurov explained. “That will be a studio for development of cinema art and culture. We know how to do it and we are capable of it.”

Meanwhile, according to Sigle, the filmmakers expect the government to help fund the renovation of the pavilions, but in a form of loans.