On March 30th, the Russian Academy of Cinema Arts and Science will present the best film of the past year. From all the five pictures nominated, the Nika Award betting odds are favouring Anna’s War (Voina Anna), though Summer (Leto) might surprise in the ceremony.
Russia is a highly controversial country when it comes to artistic freedom. Just like during the USSR, politics and arts seem to still go hand-in-hand, leaving no room for critique. Artists are activists of the regime, facing imprisonments or the need to escape if otherwise. Still, freedom exists in relative forms and this year’s Nika Awards prove that. All of the films nominated have something to say regarding contemporary Russia. As they pose challenges to the values supposedly inherent to Putin’s Russia.
The World War II seen by a Jewish little girl
Directed by Aleksey Fedorchenko, Anna’s War (Voina Anna) acts as a continuation of important classics of Russian cinema, such as Ivan’s Childhood, by Andrey Tarkovsky and Come and See, by Elem Klimov.
The film tells the story of a little girl in Ukraine during the Nazi Occupation. After surviving the execution of local Jews, Anna escapes to a school building, hiding there for the remaining years of the war.
Just like Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, Fedorchenko enhances subjectivity, leading the audience to see the war with her eyes. We are immersed in her compelling story through well-crafted visuals and sound. And though there are rough images of her survival, this film, unlike The Pianist, shows us the naivety of a child trying to survive under such conditions.
Anna’s War was screened in acclaimed film festivals around the world and won the Golden Eagle Award for both Best Film and Best Director. Its odds of winning the Nika Award are 1.75 at 22BET Sportsbook.
A musical coming-of-age in the midst of Soviet oppression
Summer (Leto) is a film about the early stages of the underground Rock culture in Leningrad (today Saint Petersburg) and the life of a young Viktor Tsoi, frontman of Kino and pioneer of Russian Rock.
Set in the 1980s, the film portrays the relationship between Tsoi, Mike Naumenko (leader of Zoopark) and his wife Natalia. With other friends, they try to carry on their love for Rock music – connected to western ideology. Living in a regime where artists create for the benefit of the system, the black & white cinematography helps to portray their struggle in finding their way into the music scene they want to be part of.
Outspoken director Kirill Serebrennikov intensifies this with the many dreamlike scenes throughout the film, of parties and rock concerts. They end up evoking a hopeless feeling while working as a metacommentary on Russia’s current political situation.
Summer was screened in the prestigious Cannes Film Festival and it also won the European Production Designer at the European Film Awards. On this account, the film (2.45) has good chances of taking the award home at online sportsbooks in Russia.
When Leon Tolstoy tried to bring justice into one soldier’s life
Dunya Smirnova’s last film is a drama following real events of the life of Leon Tolstoy.
The Story of an Appointment (Istoriya Odnogo Naznacheniya) is about Lieutenant Gregory Kolokotsev, who was born into a military family, but who has little interest in leading such a life. And his bohemian lifestyle puts him in trouble, but he is willing to prove himself to his father. In this way, he relocates from the capital where he meets a young, but already famous, Tolstoy. Together, they will try to prove a soldier’s innocence.
The film is an important metaphor for contemporary Russia. Mainly about the complex relationship between power and justice, that end up being so influential for human life.
From all five nominations, The Story of an Appointment is the least known film. Yet its odds are 13 at 22BET Sportsbook.
A rural narrative on the transgender experience
The Man Who Surprised Everyone (Tchelovek kotorij udivil vseh) is a drama that addresses not only death but mostly how gender-benders struggle to survive in small communities – in this case, a Siberian village.
In Aleksey Chupov and Natasha Merkulova’s film, a man finds out he is terminally ill. As his wife is pregnant with their second child, he tries to do everything he can to survive. After learning about the story of Zhamba the Drake, he decides to assume the identity of a woman. In this way, he hopes to deceive death. However, along with violence, he will face harsh judgment from his community.
This film won Best Actress in the Horizons section of the Venice International Film Festival and the audience award at the Pingyao International Film Festival – a new festival created by the acclaimed director Jia Zhangke. The Man Who Surprised Everyone’s odds of winning are 19.
The Nika Award betting odds are not optimistic for Dovlatov’s victory
Aleksei German’s new film, as the title echoes, is a biopic about the writer Sergei Dovlatov.
The film follows a few days in the life of Dovlatov, a struggling writer whose stories are constantly being rejected by newspapers. This is mainly due to the fact that he is not a member of the Soviet Union of Writers.
In Dovolatov we see how troubled was the writer’s life, both professionally and personally. Despite his failing marriage and career, he tries to be a present father to his daughter. He also sees his friends, namely Joseph Brodsky, leaving the USSR. This is a special hard decision as they know there is no coming back to the country.
The film premiered in the 2018 Berlinale. There, it won the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution for costume and production design and the Berliner Morgenpost Reader’s Jury Award.