'The system of nepotism shoots all initiative down' — what is the future of Tatar cinema?

Producers and directors from Tatarstan found out why they do not succeed in making films

'The system of nepotism shoots all initiative down' — what is the future of Tatar cinema?
Photo: Ilya Repin

Tatar youth from Berlin started “an international non-boring and informal online/offline conference about the future, popularisation and problems of Tatar-language cinema”. Directors, content managers and producers gathered in the National Library of Tatarstan, and the discussion was held in the format of a Zoom conference. The action was called “Tatar Cinema: Nige Tatar Kinosy Tar?" — “Why is Tatar cinema so limited?" The conversation was closely followed by the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya.

Translation vs. subtitles, movie theatres vs. independent producers

In preparation for the meeting, the organisers conducted a survey, which was attended by 141 viewers from 11 countries. Half of them watch Tatar films once or twice a year, the most famous films for them are Mulla, Kire and two Zuleykhas — the one based on the novel by Gayaz Iskhaki, and the one that opens her eyes (so the series became “Tatar”).

The organisers sought to cover all types of Tatar cinema. The first thing discussed was the dubbing of Western films. The moderator of the meeting, the head of the Directorate for Supporting Film Projects and organising festivals Vremya Kino Albina Nafigova, for example, indicated that she would recommend making subtitles for films — they are not an invasion of the author's idea, while the dubbing overlaps with the acting.

“The issue of copyright — we need to do something about it," said Nafigova. “Something is sold in packages, something is a national treasure. We need to work on international relations. After all, it is easy to make a mistake — the penalties in this area are higher than the purchase.”

Documentary filmmaker Albert Shakirov pointed out that documentary films also have problems:

“Many people forget about documentary content. We had a newsreel studio, its archive is unavailable, although there you can see the life of the villages of the 1970s and 80s, this is interesting not only for foreigners, but also for us.”

Shakirov pointed out that it is impossible to get the archives for free, although they were filmed with people's money. He himself saves money by shooting simultaneously for Khuzur TV and TNV, but at the same time, he is worried about what to do with the working material: for several years, Shakirov has accumulated nine hard drives that he can not erase, because they can be useful in work.

“Everyone who makes a budget documentary film, they give a copy to the State Archive," said Nafigova. “If the money is spent, why not — a programme is needed here — why not give it to the people?"

The main speaker of the meeting was producer and composer Marat Akhmetshin (the films Kire, Mulla). He complained that cinemas allow films only with Russian dubbing, so Mulla had to be posted on YouTube.

“Why doesn't the audience see Tatar cinema?" Ahmetshin explained. “Ordinary people think like this: if you make a good film, you can show it in cinemas and earn money. That's not how it works. You make a film. Let's assume that it is good by default. You bring it to movie theatres. They have long contracts with majors. I'll give you an analogy: you baked cookies and come to Pyaterochka. You will immediately be asked about the volume. I have one film, one kilo of cookies. If you have one film, you will get stuck in contracts with cinemas. There are about 150 of them in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan. Each one will take a week.”

As a result, the pictures can be shown purposefully in one cinema and earn even up to 400-700 thousand rubles.

“If there are producers, there must be sellers. Tatarkino? It's not their responsibility. We need a distributor who earns money from Hollywood films but is friendly to ethnic cinema," Akhmetshin concluded.

Make friends in Yakut style!

Of course, as in any other discussion about Tatar cinema, the speakers recalled the phenomenon of Yakut cinema:

“How do they make a film for two million and collect 15 million each?" Nafigova was surprised. “I thought people went to the movies there to warm up, but they still go in summer, too. All because they were able to build such a full-fledged network there that even Kinotavr is secondary for them.”

Independent cinema and entrepreneurial aspirations were able to promote cinema together. Yakuts are far from Moscow — this is their trouble and plus. They made movies, and the Yakut cinema distribute them. For 20 years, they have grown to a large system, including their own online, the participants of the meeting discussed.

“I was at the Yakut festival," said director Salavat Yuzeev. “I have a lot of friends there. I specifically studied this topic, watched a lot of movies. Our audience will not go to such films. They have a more undemanding audience. Why do they make them so cheap? They have a movie studio that works great. Can you imagine how much the budget is consumed by technology: lights, cameras? And post-production! They do everything with a movie studio. They live together, help each other. That's why they made a film about the war for 2 million rubles, where there are explosions and tanks.”

“We don't have enough content to make a modern online cinema," said Milyausha Aytuganova, the director of Tatarkino. “There should be a lot of films, for this we need a film studio, I agree with Salavat. If we make an online movie theatre, ethnic content alone will not be enough.”

Let us note that some Tatarstan films can be seen legally online — this is Vodyanaya, Soldier's Hat, Kire. With the latter, the creators were helped by the Youth Union of Cinematographers of the Russian Federation. “There is no such thing in Tatarstan," the authors immediately pointed out.

At the same time, Akhmetshin said, Kazan cadres constantly feed Moscow: sometimes one can find familiar names in the titles of large or high-profile projects.

“Why are they leaving? They are leaving closer to the industry," Nafigova said and suggested the solution: with the help of tax breaks, they should drag the Moscow film industry to their home.

Godfather is against

While talking about how to make and promote films, they forgot that its basis is the text. Sometimes there was a feeling that in general everything is fine with cinema in Tatarstan, one picture is better than another, there is simply nowhere to see them.

Therefore, it the cry of Salavat Yuzeev was logical:

“Where to carry the script? We don't have a system, people don't know where to carry the script.

The same topic was addressed by Islamic scholar and director Ilshat Sayetov:

“We need curatorship. A certain amount of money is allocated, a script-doctoring is done — when the scripts are given to a good editor, and he brings them to a level that would go to the viewer. The problem is that there is no film industry in Tatarstan. This is due to individuals and a lack of understanding of what cinema is.”

After all, there are living examples at the federal level, the film industry in the Russian Federation is built. There is a grant system that could be done in Tatarstan. These are non-refundable grants for debuts, grants for full-length items, even grants for ideologically necessary films, the participants of the meeting reasoned: “But there should be independent experts. The nepotism system shoot the whole initiative down.”

By Radif Kashapov
Tatarstan