Clearly, the film industry in Russia is dated back to the time when Soviet Union still had its power. In 1908, the first Russian fiction movie titled Stenka Razine was produced. In five years, there were already 1,400 cinemas in Russia and around one hundred films made. The Tsarist regime started to use the industry as a tool to spread propaganda from 1914. The revolution that began in 1917 made some of Russian filmmakers left the country to then return in 1919 when the government loosened up and made the industry nationalized and used as carriers of education and communication. In 1922, the first private film industry was allowed by Lenin to be established.
Since then, the journey of movie production in Russia went through bumpy road because of the political situation in the country and how everything was very much controlled by the government. But that didn’t stop filmmakers to keep creating, and finally in 1986 they had enough support to stand as the Union of Filmmakers and start the reformation of Russian film industry. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the production started to live and get refreshed until, in 2004, the first blockbuster was successfully released. Russian films have been going around the world through festivals and known with its auteur genre. The historical and political backgrounds of the country affect most of the story lines of the films made in the nation. But if we have to choose one film that has been viewed around the world, what would it be? This time we choose to bring to the surface Going Vertical (Dvizhenie Vverkh), a 2017 Russian film that made it to reach the worldwide gross over 53,87 million US dollars being the film with the highest grossing of all time in Russia.
A lot of Russian films are known to be true to their roots. Very few of them are affected by the, say, Western world and Hollywood trend. When people watch a Soviet or Russian film, they would definitely feel the strong nationalism in them. Going Vertical is not an exception. In fact, it is one of the reasons why the film succeeded at grabbing the high gross number.
The film is fact-based and set in the 1970’s. The Soviet national basketball team just had a new head coach, Vladimir Garanzhin that promised he would bring the team to win the XX Summer Olympic Basketball Tournament in Munich. Garanzhin trained the team with an unconventional ways including shuffling the members of the team so that not only players from Moscow could play. In September 1972, the moment of truth got unfolded. The USSR team made it to the final and faced the U.S. team. The match went tense and exhilarating, but the last three seconds of it that really mattered.
The way to the highest grossing rank was not easy for the whole production team of the film. Because Going Vertical is inspired by true events, it got criticized and sued by the people whose private lives got depicted in the film. They felt like the story went too deep into their privacy without their consent. The lawsuit, however, got turned down at the court because it had weaker base to prove.
Another interesting fact about the production was that the last scene, the final match between the USSR and U.S. basketball teams, was actually the first one to be shot. They used green screen technology, or known as chromakey technique, to put the crowd, advertising, and Munich attributes into the scene. They began the filming in 2016, in Moscow.
The Battle of the Two Nations
It is not a hidden fact that the relationship between Russia and the U. S. hasn’t been the most harmonious one after the Cold War. Some people thought that release of this documentary drama was a propaganda by the Russia to protest the ban of their team from competing in the 2018 Winter Games, and that the film tried to remind the world how the Olympics were never been just and easy for the Russian. But, it was not true. The film was nothing about spreading anti-America or pro-Russia campaign but more of a way for Russia to show their strong nationalism and how proud they are of it. It is definitely a very common theme in the film industry. And, in this case, the basketball team pictured in the film is not exclusively Russian because it is a story about the Soviet Union era where the players assembled in the team were coming from places that now are not exactly Russia.
Other Russian Films about Sports
People are probably more familiar with war or humanism-themed films from Russia, but Going Vertical has successfully proven that sport is inviting too. There are more sports-related films produced in Russia like: Coach, Garpastum, The Warrior, Shadowboxing, The Junior Team, Versus, Ice, The Hockey Players, Goalkeeper of the Galaxy, Wild League, Lucky Trouble, and Lucky No.17.
There are so many great Russian films you can explore, especially if you enjoy foreign language films. They are surely worth to be watched, but of course you need to do your research a bit to find out which of them are good to fill your weekend to-watch list. So many sources around the internet you can use to start learning about Russian cinema as well as building up the list. One thing for sure; put Going Vertical on it because it is one the most incredible Russian films that have been viewed around the world. Enjoy your movie night!