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Work-in-Progress films released on the big screen

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Meeting on the way

Work-in-progress films released on the big screen.

This year the Spirit of Fire Festival will feature a work-in-progress program for the second time. It is a sort of a pitch for film projects nearing completion that have not yet obtained a screening license. The first competition program in 2023 helped several promising Russian films to make it to the big screen. Here are the details.

Trial run in 2023

The early 2000s saw the first work-in-progress programs at major international film festivals. For directors and producers, this is an opportunity to introduce and discuss their unfinished works with the industry experts. It is also a chance to receive much-valued feedback, to listen to suggestions, ideas and comments and to correct some flaws. It is also a way to find additional resources for completing the film. Even though the program does not offer financial support to the winner, in the audience there will certainly be producers who will want to help bring a film they consider promising to completion. Also, one can get a feel of the first prospects: screenings and discussions are attended by film festival curators who will be waiting for a film that caught their fancy to be completed,  and it is also possible to discuss the film’s  future with distributors and streaming platforms representatives.

Today, work-in-progress programs have become an integral part of major film festivals in Locarno, Rotterdam, Berlin, etc. In Russia, the history of this format is more scarce: from time to time, there have been sporadic competitions of this kind but they have not yet become a regular feature at major festivals.

The first work-in-progress competition at the Spirit of Fire 2023 was only open to Russian directors and producers. Seven films were selected for the event. As a result, almost all of them got a good start,  were successfully released and made a name for themselves at film festivals.

Work-in-progress 2023



What is it about? One of the country’s best family therapists decides to run a free experimental course using the psychodrama method. The therapist brings four women together at his place, each of them in her own difficult situation. In the process, it becomes clear that it is the therapist himself who desperately needs help.

Director: Alexey Stepanov was born in 1997. The Octopus is his debut full-length film (he also produced  and co-written it). Prior to that, Alexei directed a short film called “No Kinship” about a young man suffering from clinical depression.

Interesting: Daniil Vorobyov plays several roles in the film, accompanied by Maria Mironova, Anfisa Chernykh and other stars.

After the Spirit of Fire: The film premiered at the October cinema in the autumn of 2023, with a digital release on December 27, 2023. The film is now available on four platforms. It participated in the Vyborg Festival competition program.



What is it about? There comes a time in everyone’s life for looking back and re-examining one’s present. Tatyana has everything: a family, a job, friends, but a casual meeting brings her back to the past she has been trying to forget for so long.

Director: Anton Kolomeyets was born in 1984. He is already known as the director of his debut feature film Your Tutor, two short films, and as a co-writer of the popular TV series Chicks.

Interesting: The main role of a social worker preparing to celebrate her 60th birthday, is played by Elena Yakovleva. “Over the course of the almost two-hour film, viewers see how a self-centred girl who strived to be in the limelight has evolved into a woman eager to be the light for others,» Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote.

After the Spirit of Fire: The film won the grand-prix at the Vyborg Film Festival feature film competition and several other awards, an award for the best debut at the One Sixth Film Festival, and awards at the Stalker and the Lamp festivals. It is to be released on February 22, 2024.



What is it about? Disappearance of a five-year-old Masha shocks the small town – she is the sixth child to go missing. The investigators have no leads but a perfect suspect. Zhenya has recently been released after two years in prison but the girlfriend he loves is now with someone else, he can’t get a job, and even his old friends view him with suspicion. Zhenya was the last person to see Masha, and he is the only one who knows the truth, but he must keep silent, because if he tells the truth, he might pay with his freedom again. And, while the whole town is looking for the missing girl, someone calls the victims’ relatives.

Director: Maxim Kuznetsov was born in 1981. Truth is his first full-length feature film. He previously made a short film I Have a Brother.

Interesting fact: The film’s director worked as an investigator for eight years. “When you finish school in a remote Siberian town and all you’ve seen is action films with Jean-Claude Van Damme, you don’t think about directing at all. Yet, in the course of my life, I fell in love with cinema and decided to make this love my profession,“ he explains in an interview for “Seans” magazine.

After the Spirit of Fire: The film participated in the Koroche Festival and was released on  February 1, 2024.



What is it about?  Dasha is an eighteen-year-old girl raised by her father. Her life changes dramatically when she runs away from home to seek answers to the eternal questions: what is wrong with me and why did my mother leave me? Finding herself near her mother, who has already forgotten how to love her, Dasha tries to sort out this complicated relationship and the unspoken feelings.

Director: Irina Bas’s initial profession was political analyst but she has now, for more than ten years, been directing short films and series (Themis Sees, Sixteen+).

Interesting fact: “For this project, I had to dye my hair red – it was in the script, and I knew from the beginning that I would do it because wigs are always visible. It’s cool that my profession allows such twists and turns. I am ready to shave my head if necessary,” confessed Masha Matzel, who played the lead role.

After the Spirit of Fire: The film has been in distribution since February 1, 2024. It participated in the Koroche Festival.



What is it about? A boy who has lost his mother is sent to the village to live with his father, whom he barely knows. Timir connects neither with his alcoholic father nor with the children at school, but a ghost living in a dump in the forest helps fix the situation.

Director: Nikolay Koryakin was born in 1992 in a mountainous region in Yakutia and started out as a short film director (Zherebyatina). Timir is his feature film debut for which he wore the hats of a director, a scriptwriter, a producer and even an editor.

Interesting fact: According to Vokrug TV, a Russian TV guide website, the future director ran a YouTube channel and reviewed popular films. He stirred a hornet’s nest when he criticized a historical drama release, bringing upon himself a wave of hatred and advice to try making a film himself before criticizing others. Nikolay did just that.

After the Spirit of Fire: The film won the Best Director award at Russia’s second Zimny [Winter] Open Auteur Film Festival and is already running in cinemas.

2024: To the new frontiers

We expect that the upcoming “Spirit of Fire. The Starting Point” competition will be held on a greater scale this year: last year’s participants made their way to success, and a festival pitch format has proven its efficiency. The new pitch will be held as a public presentation and project defense in front of an expert panel of film producers and renowned industry professionals. The new format will bring together debut film makers and producers, opening opportunities for co-production and new partnerships.

Applications will be accepted until February 20, 2024. The in-person pitch will take place at the Festival on March 24-25, 2024. The first day will feature project defence, and the second day an award ceremony for the winner and participants. The most interesting projects will be supported by the Festival and its partners.