Berlin Fest Winner Set for April Debut

Russian viewers will have to wait till April 1 to see Alexei Popogrebsky’s Arctic thriller, “How I Ended This Summer,” which won two prizes at the Berlin Film Festival, a spokesperson for the film said Thursday.

Actors Sergei Puskepalis and Grigory Dobrygin shared the Silver Bear for Best Actor, and Pavel Kostomarov won a Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution for his cinematography at the festival last weekend.

The film, more art-house than Hitchcock, can expect to get a wider release than would have been expected after its success, but Valeria Ovechenko from the Koktebel film company said there was no decision yet on how many prints would be distributed.

Popogrebsky is well-known for writing and directing award-winning artistic films, including “Simple Things” (“Prostiye Veshchi,” 2007) and “Koktebel” (2003). Veteran actor Puskepalis has previously worked with Popogrebsky, while “How I Ended This Summer” is Dobrygin’s cinematic debut.

The movie is the story of two men of different generations on watch at a Polar station on an island in Chukotka, Russia’s northeastern-most tip. When Sergei (Puskepalis) goes fishing and leaves his young recruit Pavel (Dobrygin) in charge, Pavel receives an urgent message about Sergei’s family. Psychological tension mounts as Pavel tries desperately to keep Sergei from finding out.

The film was inspired by the diaries of Nikolai Pinegin, who accompanied Arctic explorer Georgy Sedov on his fatal attempt to reach the North Pole in 1912. Pinegin’s book, “V Ledyanykh Prostorakh” (“In Icy Space”), was republished last year in Russian, though Popogrebsky has been fascinated with the story since he was a teenager.

During filming, he moved his actors and crew to Chukotka for three months.

“Members of the group had to travel the tundra with rain and snow falling on the roofs of their vehicles, go out in an inflatable boat 15 kilometers around the Arctic Ocean, lug heavy equipment across rocks and drive off white bears with firebrand … fortunately no one got hurt,” Popogrebsky said in a statement.

“All of my stories are honest. I live them for several years. They are sincere and made without commercial aim,” Popogrebsky told the Metro newspaper after the film’s success in Berlin.

Internationally, the movie has received mixed reviews. “The Hollywood Reporter” called its story line a “puzzlement,” while praising its cinematography that “fool[s] you into thinking the place is a living, breathing menace.”

Variety magazine called the film “a terrific exploration of human fragility.” “On the strength of this, ‘Simple Things’ and ‘Koktebel,’ Popogrebsky is shaping up into one of Russia’s most talented, distinctive and potentially exportable directors.”

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