The website EuropeanMovies.Org has tipped Fedor Bondarchuk's Stalingrad as the most-anticipated Russian film of 2013. The war film is based on the diaries of soldiers who fought in the six-month Battle of Stalingrad on the bank of the Volga River from summer 1942 to spring 1943, during which nearly 2 million people lost their live. Bondarchuk, a legendary Russian actor and director, has described the film as a love story with a bloody backdrop, and the reportedly $30 million film is the first Russian production to be shot and released in 3D. In addition, Stalingrad will also be the country's first non-American IMAX release. Stalingrad is currently in post-production with an unscheduled 2013 launch.
Watch the trailer for Stalingrad
HBO Films has acquired Maxim Pozdorovkin and Mike Lerner's documentary Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer, at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for an unspecified amount. The film tracks the trial of the all-girl band who caused global headlines this summer when two members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were put on trial for shooting an anti-church music video inside of a Russian Orthodox cathedral and subsequently convicted of hooliganism and sentenced to two years in prison. While Russian leader Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying the band, "got what it deserved," critics who attended the documentary's first screening this weekend at the film festival have deemed the film surprisingly fair-minded, with Screendaily's Anthony Kaufman writing, "Ironically, Pussy Riot's main target, President Putin, doesn't really come across as the bad guy." International distribution rights for Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer are still for sale.
The Paramount Pictures release Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters opened in Russia one week before it launched in the United States, South America and Asia and managed to take the #1 spot on the charts. The Jeremy Renner fairy tale flick is tracking for only a modest opening in the States -- Boxoffice is estimating a total domestic cume of $25 million -- but already recouped $7.3 million in Russia over its debut weekend across 650 screens. Hansel and Gretel's strong Russian opening is 59% above the opening of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, 349% above Red Riding Hood and 22% above Underworld: Awakening, and it's made 98% of its box office intake from 3D screens. In the second slot for the weekend was Django Unchained, which earned $5.4 million in its debut, double the profits of Quentin Tarantino's last release Inglourious Basterds.
The Russian 3D sci-fi thriller Higher Mission has moved production to the unlikely location of Guthrie, Oklahoma. Directed by Vladimir Uglichin, the film is about an American senator who has a dream about corruption among the Russian parliament and must warn the leaders in Moscow that if they don't stop taking bribes, they'll be turned into rodents. On location in the U.S, Higher Mission's predominately Russian cast and crew are joined by Starship Troopers star Casper Van Dien and local producer Grey Fredricksen, who worked on The Outsiders, The Godfather, and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Shooting is taking place at Guthrie's Scottish Rite Temple, which director Uglichin says looks very much like something you'd see in Russia.
Critics and audiences haven't been able to agree on whether Joe Wright's (Atonement, Hanna) unusual adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel is any good. Starring Keira Knightley as the rich, unfaithful and doomed wife, Wright's Anna Karenina was too over-the-top theatrical to find mainstream appeal in the U.S., where its box office has topped out at just over $12 million.
This weekend, however, Anna Karenina made a mighty Russian debut. Its $2.48 million launch ranked it fourth on the charts, while its per-screen average of $5,072 was the highest of the weekend, besting #1 picture Life of Pi by nearly double. Still, as is to be expected for any Western remake of a treasured Russian novel, Anna Karenina isn't without its critics. A Moscow Times editorial this week reported that Russian audiences found Keira Knightley "too skinny," and found the shirts of the peasants "unnaturally clean."