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Rossica Academia's Russky London Kino Klub presents the first UK retrospective of Alexei Balabanov – FILM FESTIVAL

Wednesday, February 05, 2014 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

Goldfrapp Tales of us Last Saturday I went along to a screening of Alexei Balabanov's crime story Brother (Brat) and I loved it! It is a great little tale set in Saint Petersburg during the vacuum left by the post soviet era. I knew very little about Brother or indeed the acclaimed Russian Director Alexei Balabanov (apart from having viewed Balabanov's startling 2010 film The Stoker or Kochegar) before seeing Brother so I was filled with joy when this little film screened from what looked like an 80s VHS transfer turned out to be a cracking tale.


An ex-soldier with a personal honor code enters the family crime business in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Aleksey Balabanov


Aleksey Balabanov

Sergey Bodrov Jr., Viktor Sukhorukov, Svetlana Pismichenko

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So pared down and salt of the earth that it completely charmed me whilst undermining all expectations of excessive over the top crime tales we have come to expect. The Brother screening was part of an Alexei Balabanov Retrospective being hosted by Rossica Academia's Russky London Kino Klub.

Academia Rossica is a London-based charity organisation involved in bringing contemporary Russian culture to an English speaking audiences and bridging our cultures.  They regularly host cultural events exhibiting the best and most interesting of Russian film, literature, art, and food, including the annual Russian Film Festival.

Their latest event the Russky London Kino Klub launched on the 1 February has taken up residency in the prestigious Mayfair Hotel to screen previews of new releases, much loved classics as well as the UK's very first Alexei Balabanov Retrospective! Other films shown on the day were Yolki 3 & The Girl and Death.

Aleksey Balabanov is Russia’s most-iconic post-Soviet film director; to watch his films is to know Russia. A filmmaker for the people, Balabanov burst onto the cinema scene in the early nineties. His work is curiously ambiguous; contrasting light and dark, good and evil, liberty and constraint. Beyond their often grim actualities, his films have an immense sense of freedom, his characters seek redemption. His films transcend the realities of their post-Soviet setting to reveal deeper, universal truths about the individual and morality. In its contrasts and contradictions, Balabanov's work is quintessentially Russian, infused with the rebellious Ural Rock music of Sverdlovsk, where he was born in 1959. His work has been shown at some of the world's most prominent festivals: Venice, Cannes, Rotterdam, Montreal.

Rossica Academia's Russky London Kino Klub

Academia Rossica is delighted to present the first UK retrospective of Alexei Balabanov’s work from the years 1997-2012. The nine most seminal films of this uncompromising, unflinching director will be shown at the May Fair Hotel Theatre starting from 1 February through to May.

Films will be shown at The May Fair Hotel Theatre (Stratton Street, Mayfair W1J 8LT) on 1, 9, 23 February, 9, 16, 23 March, 6 & 20 April, 11 & 25 May
A man of many faces to the Russian film scene, he has been labelled a marginal aesthetic, the Russian Tarantino, the master of noir, the ‘new left’ revanchist, the nationalist-conservative, the xenophobe, the champion of the people, the first commercial director, the victim of the twin tragedies of illness and alcohol, the damned poet expressing himself in transgression, the provocateur writing totalitarian texts with an anti-totalitarian promise, the dark and cynical romantic, the patriot enslaved by national myths, the European bound by the rules of political correctness, he is no less than Lars von Trier, the despairing God-seeker, the divine poet sent by the devil. He is a cinematographer through and through, no less than Bonuel and John Ford.
- Film critic Andrey Plakhov on Balabanov
Films by Alexei Balabanov to be shown:

Brother (Brat) Poster
Brother (Brat) Poster
This iconic crime drama addresses the fundamental questions of morality through the eyes of an ex-soldier pulled into the criminal underground by his brother.

Video: Брат (трейлер) — Brother Trailer

Balabanov's fascinating and unapologetic examination of a curiously moral assassin is undoubtedly a seminal film in post-Soviet cinema. Raw and honest in its portrayal of the realities of the Russian Wild West, the film shattered the facade of New Russia, drawing in record audiences who wholeheartedly identified with the film's ambiguous hero and his on-screen dilemmas. This landmark film continues to shock and enthral audiences, even more than a decade after its release and was the obvious choice to start our retrospective.

Russia, 1997, crime drama, 100 min Directors: Alexei Balabanov Cast: Sergey Bodrov, Victor Sukhorukov

Of Freaks and Men (Pro Urodov I Lyudey) Poster
Of Freaks and Men (Pro Urodov I Lyudey) Poster
Differing vastly from the bruising realism of the Brother films is Of Freaks and Men (1998), this is an idiosyncratic take on the pioneers of film and photographic pornography in Saint Petersburg in the early 1900s.

Video: FILMS YOU SHOULD SEE: OF FREAKS AND MEN. Aleksey Balabanov Trailer

“Every director has only one good film. Mine is Of Freaks and Men’’, Balabanov told Esquire Magazine, expressing his own infatuation with this aesthetically stunning sepia film.

 Russia, 1998, comic drama, 97 min Director: Alexei Balabanov Cast: Sergey Makovetskiy, Dinara Drukarova, Anzhelika Nevolina

Brother 2 (Brat 2) Poster
Brother 2 (Brat 2) Poster
The sequel, which follows the protagonist Danila Bagrov to the US, was also an immense hit in Russia, where audiences enjoyed seeing the Russian cast as the hero in contrast to America's anti-Soviet cinema.

Video: трэйлер Брат 2 - Brother 2 Trailer

 Russia, 2000, crime thriller, 122 min Director: Alexei Balabanov Cast: Sergey Bodrov, Victor Sukhorukov

War (Voyna) Poster
War (Voyna) Poster
War is a politically uncompromising action drama which, through examining the Chechen War, looks at the broader, centuries-old question of Russia’s relationship with the Caucasus and Europe.

Video: War Trailer - Война - трейлер Voyna

Russia, 2002, action, 120 min Director: Alexei Balabanov Cast: Aleksey Chadov, Ian Kelly, Ingeborga Dapkunaite

Morphine (Morfiy) Poster
Morphine (Morfiy) Poster
A loose adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s early autobiographical stories, this film also draws heavily on a contemporary film theme of addiction.

Video: Morphine Trailer - Морфий - трейлер

The script was originally written by Sergei Bodrov before his death in 2002.

 Russia, 2008, drama, 110 min Director: Alexei Balabanov Cast: Leonid Bichevin, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Andrey Panin

It Doesn't Hurt Me (Mne Ne Bolno) Poster
It Doesn't Hurt Me (Mne Ne Bolno) Poster
A deeply touching and tragic love story looking at life and love in modern, urban Russia; not dissimilar to Remarque's 'Three Comrades', the film combines friendship, humour, love and suffering to create a vivid chemistry

Video: It Doesn't Hurt Me Trailer

Russia, 2006, drama/romance, 100 min Director: Alexei Balabanov Cast: Renata Litvinova, Aleksandr Yatsenko, Dmitriy Dyuzhev

Cargo 200 (Gruz 200) Poster
Cargo 200 (Gruz 200) Poster
CARGO 200 (GRUZ 200)
The title is taken from the code name for the bodies of the fallen Soviet soldiers shipped back from Afghanistan.

Video: Cargo 200 Trailer

Using grotesque imagery reflecting the reality of Soviet life in 1984, the film is shot in the muted colours of Soviet cinema, Balabanov wrings some grim amusement from a group of pathological characters, led by a sadistic police chief.

 Russia, 2007, thriller, 89 min Director: Alexei Balabanov Cast: Agniya Kuznetsova, Aleksey Poluyan, Leonid Gromov

The Stoker (Kochegar) Poster
The Stoker (Kochegar) Poster
The Stoker kindly allows gangsters to use his furnace as a convenient way to discard of inconvenient corpses.

Video: The Stoker - Trailer

The film is one of Balabanov's most savagely sardonic and entertaining examinations of Russian society.

Russia, 2010, crime drama, 87 min Director: Alexei Balabanov Cast: Mikhail Skryabin, Yuriy Matveev, Aleksandr Mosin

Me Too (Ya Tozhe Khochu) Poster
Me Too (Ya Tozhe Khochu) Poster
A dark comic drama following a motley crew of characters seeking truth and fulfilment.

Video: Me Too - trailer

The film speaks of Balabanov's cynical view of modern Russia and a crumbling European civilisation.

Russia, 2012, drama, 83 min Director: Alexei Balabanov Cast: Oleg Garkusha, Vyacheslav Ivanov, Yuriy Matveev

For more information and tickets visit:


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Craig is a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover & flâneur who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond.

When not watching or making films he takes pictures, eats, drinks, dives, tries to connect to nature whilst mentally storyboarding the greatest film ever made. He also  & sometimes utilises owl-themed gadgets to fight crime. 

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