Russia is so Cute
Film director Timur Bekmambetov (“Night Watch” and “Day Watch“) was thrilled last week to learn that his latest movie “Yolki” had become the the most successful Russian movie over the last three years. The movie’s box office take “surpassed everyone’s expectations, including ours,” Ruslan Tatarintsev, the film’s marketing and distribution director, told The Hollywood Reporter. He added: “The main reason for the success was that we had a quality product that people wanted to watch.”
It was all lies.
“Yolki” had grossed a miniscule $26.5 million in a nation of 140 million people. It cost $6 million to make, and $4 million of that had been spent on advertising. “Yolki” bought its audience, and its audience was laughably — indeed, hilariously — tiny by Western standards. It featured what reports called “top local stars, such as Sergei Garmash and Artur Smolyaninov.” Ever heard of them?
Less than twenty percent of Russia’s cities and towns have even one movie theater.
It’s not hard, in other words, to be #1 at the box office in a country where people work for $3/hour and hardly anyone can afford to go to the movies, where $2 million buys you a big-budget extravaganza with “top stars.”
Isn’t Russia cute? It pretends to be a real country, deserving of a seat at such tables as the UN Security Council and the G-8, but when you lift the curtain Russia is revealed as a backwater, a silly little nation with delusions of grandeur.
What’s more, try showing “Yolki” to a Western audience. They’d walk out before it was halfway done. Russians, unlike Americans, have no ability to make popular entertainment that will be admired outside the country. That’s because Russians are caught up in their own delusional fantasies, like the infamous Emperor with his “new clothes.” They cannot access universal values like democracy and pluralism, and so they cannot communicate with the outside world. This would be one thing if Russia were a prosperous and happy country, but it is an impoverished backwater on the verge of collapse.
Come to think of it, Russia isn’t very cute at all.