University of Pittsburgh Professor Nancy Condee talks on the nature and development of the Russian film industry
"What is the face of Russia we see on the screen today? Where is Russian film positioned on a global level? What problems does Russian cinematography run in to today?" All these questions were touched on and discussed on the "open Wednesday" lecture by Nancy Condee, Professor of Slavic and Film Studies at University of Pittsburgh in America. You may be wondering what an American woman could know more about Russian film than you, but Condee's achievements are nothing but praiseworthy--Condee's recent publication, "Recent Russian Cinema" (Oxford 2009) won the 2011 MLA Scaglione Slavic Prize and the 2010 Kovac's Book Award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Her articles have appeared in The Nation, The Washington Post, October, New Left Review, PMLA, Sight and Sound, as well as the Russian journals NLO, Seans, Znamia, Voprosy Literatury,and Iskusstvo kino.
Condee broke her presentation down into three subsections: challenges facing Russian cinema today, trends in cinematography style and composition, and future films, that is movie ideas and scripts being worked on and produced right now. To illustrate what kinds of hindrances affect Russian cinematography and the international recognition it receives, Condee shared her insights surrounding the recent Russian film, Leviathan.
Leviathan, a movie designed to represent "the abuse of power worldwide," including the "portrayal of the corruption of contemporary politics in Russia," won the 2014 Cannes Film Festival's best screenplay award (Holdsworth, 2014). Condee goes on to explain the significance in the timing of this film's appearance and how geopolitics plays a major role in the success of Russia's film industry. Leviathan is one of the first modern-day Russian films to air in theaters overseas, and after such a positive response from the international film industry, critics couldn't wait to see what would come next from Russia, what would be after Leviathan. To the critics' disappointment, Russia would produce essentially nothing significant in 2015 when it comes to cinema.
As is well known, 2014 and 2015 were geopolitically busy years for eastern Europe, including Russia. Between the conflict in Ukraine, sanctions from the west, and the situation in Syria, Russia was put in a strained situation. Condee claims these may all be factors contributing to lack of movement and further development in Russia's film industry. She and the rest of the world is eager to see what next great cinematic work will be produced by Russian hands.
Condee reports another set of challenges Russian cinematography faces on the global level is the cultural difference in style and content of Russian films. Reviewers and critics from around the world have shared the opinion that Russian films are often "too gloomy", "too profane", and "too art-house" for their taste. Although she rather enjoys and even loves those types of films, Professor Condee was the first to admit the majority of audiences around the world prefer the more "high-action" in-your-face films that Hollywood produces.
At the conclusion of her presentation, Professor Condee invited the audience to participate in a question-answer, in which students asked questions regarding international film, the Russian film industry, how to become more involved in her line of work, etc.
Dr. Condee, having recently been appointed a Gaidar Fellow at RANEPA, will spend another several weeks here this Fall semester. If you have questions regarding contemporary cinema, Russia's film industry, or Russian cultural politics you can find her here sharing her passion and rich experiences with any willing to listen.