Irish filmmaker to bring flavor of Russian soul to Western screens

“Moscow Never Sleeps” will premier in Russia’s capital in autumn 2014. Source: Press Photo / Facebook

“Moscow Never Sleeps” will premier in Russia’s capital in autumn 2014. Source: Press Photo / Facebook

“Moscow Never Sleeps” depicts the entwined lives of several Muscovites from very different backgrounds.

Only a few modern Russian films are equally well known both in Russia and abroad. However, Johnny O’Reilly, an Irish filmmaker and an avid fan of Moscow, is set to change the situation with his upcoming drama showing real lives of Muscovites, “Moscow Never Sleeps.”

O’Reilly who has lived in Moscow for two decades, says that the city and its residents are a never-ending source of inspiration for him. “The Moscow lifestyle is full of life and soul, people fight and love more than they do in other European capital,” he said.

“Relationships in Russia are ruled along vertical power structures, which makes things happen more quickly, more unexpectedly,” O’Reilly said, adding that in Europe people tend to make decisions in a more consensual manner. “It makes things happen more strategically, but slower.”

This ambiguous nature of Russia is reflected in the plot of “Moscow Never Sleeps,” where it is intricately interweaving the lives of several people from various backgrounds: from a troubled businessman to a Soviet film star-turned-abandoned pensioner, and a singer searching for her true self.

Among the actors starring in the movie are both stars and promising young talents.

Mikhail Efremov, who received a wide acclaim for the opposition-minded Citizen Poet project, plays an unhealthy 55-year-old, who likes the simple life of an easygoing work schedule that yields enough money to feed himself and his considerable drinking habit.

Yury Stoyanov, known in Russia for a long-lasting comic show, adds more drama to his character.

“Moscow Never Sleeps” is likely to open new talents, including Rustam Akhmadeyev playing a thug, Yevgenia Brik as a singer, and Anastasia Shalonko as a teenager confronting her stepfather.

All the characters in the film live separately, but their story lines are closely knit together under one theme to make it feel like one big story.

“Even when people are sprinting through their lives, fighting and loving like it's the last day on Earth, they are sometimes asleep,” the author said.

But in his movie, Moscow never sleeps, because it is “a teeming mass of interconnected humanity that helps to recognize the hidden bonds that connects us all.”

O’Reilly argues that it is not only a Russian audience that is interested in dramatic stories of modern Muscovites. Social drama remains one of the most-loved genres both among film experts and ordinary viewers, especially if it comes from such controversial countries like Russia.

“People in the west are hugely interested in Russia but very few have actually been here. Despite the fact that Moscow is the biggest city in Europe, it's still an exotic, unknown place for most Europeans,” O’Reilly said.

It is not only O’Reilly’s genuine fascination with Moscow that makes success of “Moscow Never Sleeps” feasible, but also the business strategy that the creators employ in promoting the project.

With a $3.5 million budget, the movie became the first Russian film to receive funding from Eurimages, a cultural support fund of the Council of Europe.

The Irish Film Board has also invested to the project, while the majority of the financing came from professional film equity investors based in Russia and around the world.

O’Reilly said his biggest short-term goal is to show the movie at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. “We have little doubt that the film will be selected for a competition slot in an A-list festival such as Cannes or Venice because of the interest from international sales agencies into the project.”

Last year, the film’s producers did a round of pitching to the top agencies and received commitments from two of them. O’Reilly said that he will choose an agency when the movie’s rough-cut is finished.

Shooting for the film was completed in October, and the movie’s crew is now working on editing the picture at the post-production studio, Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, where legendary U2 recorded their first eight albums.

“Moscow Never Sleeps” will premier in Russia’s capital in autumn 2014, when its Russian premiere is planned.

Meanwhile, O’Reilly’s previous 2010 movie, “Weather Station,” a thriller featuring Hitchcock-style suspense scenes set in sinister-looking location somewhere in a remote Russian region, has drawn interest from Hollywood film moguls striving to remake it. O’Reilly said he will be involved in the remake as a producer.

So why is Russia so attractive to him?

“The amplitude of humanity here is higher… There's more suffering, but there's also more soul,” O’Reilly said.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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