A new scandal in the Russian film industry: actress and director Natalya Kudryashova has publicly stated that the producers are taking away her new project from her – a film about Saint Xenia of Petersburg, on which she has been working for the past few years. In the Ministry of Culture, Kudryashova is charged with the lack of a blessing for the project from the Russian Orthodox Church, with which Natalia herself strongly disagrees. The director wrote a post on her Facebook, and then gave a detailed commentary on this topic to The Blueprint portal, and telegram channels also joined the discussion. Spletnik talks about the situation.
43-year-old Natalya Kudryashova is primarily known as an actress: she played in productions of the School of Dramatic Art, Moscow Art Theater. A.P. Chekhov, Theater of Nations. For her role in the film “The Man Who Surprised Everyone” Kudryashova received the Best Actress award at the 2018 Venice Film Festival in the Horizons program. She made her directorial debut with Pioneers Heroes (Best Debut Award at Kinotavr 2015), and this year her film Gerda won two awards at the Locarno Film Festival (and rave reviews from Gaspar Noé).
Still from the film “Gerda”
However, Kudryashova's new project – a film about Saint Xenia of Petersburg under the working title “Xenia” – runs the risk of not reaching the viewer:
2 years ago the Ministry of Culture, for which many thanks to the people who believed in the project, supported my film “Ksenia” about Ksenia of Petersburg. The project was produced by Andrey Savelyev and the Saga film company. 2 years of ordeals, tears, nerves, blood, persuasion on my part with a request to start a project, 2 years of hope, 2 years of life. If you skip the lyrics and the despair in which I am, then the state of affairs today is as follows. For 2 years nothing has been done (the spelling and punctuation of the author are preserved. – Ed.),
– Kudryashova wrote on Facebook, and later recorded a video message on Instagram.
So, Kudryashova said that producer Andrei Savelyev and the SAGa film company deceived her film, and now she risks losing the rights to the script and project:
Before submitting the project to the Ministry of Culture, under wild circumstances, two terrible agreements were signed with me, which actually deprived me of the rights to the project – directing and screenwriting,
– explained Kudryashova to The Blueprint.
Further, according to Kudryashova, the Ministry of Culture allocated 30 million rubles for the project, Savelyev was supposed to find additional funds – but he never found it, as a result of which the project hung:
They called from the Ministry of Culture and said that the film should be completed by February. All this time I talked with Savelyev and tried to find out what was happening, offered to return the money to the Ministry of Culture. He disappeared for months, did not answer the phone. I was told that, most likely, the money is gone.
Natalia Kudryashova at the Venice Film Festival
Later, according to Kudryashova, she received a call from the Ministry of Culture and was told that Savelyev had notified the ministry that “the non-existent filming process of Ksenia was suspended because the film did not receive the blessing of the Russian Orthodox Church.” The director said that this was the last straw for her, and she decided to take the situation out into the public field.
Kudryashova denies the conflict with the Russian Orthodox Church. On the contrary, she has enlisted the support of the clergy, she said:
Before submitting a project for pitching to the Ministry of Culture, I was sent for a conversation with Father Alexander Volkov, who was then the right-hand man of the Patriarch (from 2012 to 2019, Alexander Volkov was the head of the Patriarchal Press Service. – Ed.). The precedent with “Matilda” was still in the air, when members of the organization “Christian State – Holy Russia” sent threats to the filmmakers and the leadership of cinemas. Father Alexander liked the script very much, and we also discussed the book “Unholy Saints” and the importance of the story of canonized saints as people. At that meeting, he told me that I can assume that the film has the approval of the Russian Orthodox Church. It was even written in the presentation of the project to the Ministry of Culture. Thus, the ROC nodded to the Ministry of Culture – yes, this project can be launched. Without this, of course, nothing would have happened.
Evgeny Tsyganov and Natalia Kudryashova at the Venice Film Festival
Now Natalya Kudryashova hopes that public pressure after making the situation public will force Savelyev to reconsider her decision, and she will be able to regain the rights to the project – possibly with the help of other film companies, which will buy the rights from the producers.
Andrei Savelyev himself has not yet commented on the situation, but it has already been sorted out in the Zakulisk telegram channel – and the verdict is not in favor of Natalya Kudryashova:
The biography of the director Kudryashova is some kind of endless conflict with the producer. And it doesn't matter what his name is: at least Selyanov, at least Davidenko, at least Savelyev. Andrei Savelyev, whom Kudryashov now accuses of all mortal sins, the instinct of self-preservation worked before the start of the filming process. If you get involved in the business and seriously, then many unpleasant moments and outright lies, for which Kudryashova is so famous, will emerge in the context of the Ksenia project. There was no agreement from the Russian Orthodox Church (social meetings and small talk with representatives do not count), ignoring production activities, overstating the fee after signing the contract, juggling, violation of deadlines, violation of agreements, as well as rudeness while in the pre-production process – all that is learned any producer who worked with Natalia Kudryashova.
According to the anonymous Telegram channel, producer Andrei Savelyev's “nervous system suspected that they simply would not reach the end, and Savelyev began to close the shop,” after which Natalya Kudryashova made a public statement.
The Blueprint and Backstage have polar opinions about the situation: if the former call Kudryashova one of the “best directors in the country” who can become a “victim of producer deception”, the latter call it a “boorish director”.
Kudryashova is supported by many friends and colleagues from the film community, however, judging by her last post on Instagram, there are also enough ill-wishers.
I try not to cry guys, but it doesn't always work out. Disgusting yellow chernukha and lies about me begin to appear, people enter the territories that cannot be entered. They touch loved ones, relatives, my innermost and hardest feelings about loved ones, the illness of relatives,
– wrote Natalia, posting a photo in tears.
Spletnik is following the story, which already has other victims besides the interested parties – viewers who risk not seeing the film.