Georgia’s latest front in the PR war against Russia: Hollywood
Variety magazine is reporting that Renny Harlin, the director of “Die Hard 2,” “The Adventures of Ford Fairlane” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master,” is making a film about last year’s war between Russia and Georgia. Harlin, deep down, has always been an auteur and a film about South Ossetia is going to help him fulfill his arthouse dreams, Variety says:
Turns out Harlin’s a closet aficionado of arthouse films, and he said he has waited his whole career to sink his teeth into a serious film.”I’ve waited a long time to find something with substance and reality,” Harlin said. “I thought I had that in ‘Mannerheim,’ this historical epic on the Finnish war general who led Finland against Russia in 1939, but the financing fell apart. When I got this script two weeks ago, it was exactly what I had been looking for, a great human story, with tragic, serious overtones. I saw it as my opportunity to use my experience in action films to tell the story of a complex conflict that is impartial but makes a strong antiwar statement.”
When he began his Hollywood career producing the critical favorite “Rambling Rose” in 1991, he planned to direct films with similar sensibilities.
Commercial success took him in a different path.
“I want to make a film that says something about the human condition, and even if only a few people see this and feel its impact and its antiwar message, then I will have done something that’s important and I will be proud of it,” he said.
A touching statement of artistic integrity, indeed. Even with my bullshit detector set to the relatively loose standards of Washington, this smelled suspicious.
It reminded me of an episode a few months ago when an American documentary maker contacted me to ask if I would participate as a talking head in a film he was making about the South Ossetia war. I talked to his assistant, who told me that the funding for the film was coming from Georgia. (After hearing my take on the war, they never called me back.)
Variety mentions that one of the co-producers of the film is David Imedashvili who, as the name suggests, is Georgian. A bit of googling uncovered the fact that Imedashvili has the backing of the Georgian government for this project:
[F]ollowing the 2008 Georgia-Russia conflict, Imedashvili began developing a docudrama about the conflict, particularly the role of the U.S. The idea was embraced by the Georgian Film Center and Georgian Ministry of Culture. Hollywood also loved the project and came to Imedashvili’s support in the form of a major sponsorship from a key studio in Los Angeles. Negotiations are now underway to hire high profile American actors to star in the film, tentatively scheduled to begin production in July 2009.
I called Rex Media, who Variety reported is putting together the financing for the film, and talked to its CEO, George Lascu. He said that project was the same one that Harlin is working on, but said he couldn’t say who was financing the film:
That’s confidential right now… there are issues since the Russians are pretty aggressive about a media campaign on this issue.
When I asked him about the article referring to the backing of the Georgian Ministry of Culture, he asked me to send him the link to the story, and said “We’re very tight on releasing information about that… that article must have been an older one?” And then he asked that any more questions come via email. So I emailed him asking if the Georgian government was financing the film. He emailed a response right away:
No, we are not financed by the Georgian Government. This is conventional motion picture financing including: private equity, pre-sales and bank financing.
I responded and asked for clarification, if the private equity was coming from Georgian sources. (In the case of the documentary maker who contacted me, it was money from a Georgian business person, but I suspected that the distinction between that and government money was slim.) Lascu didn’t respond; I’ll update when/if he does.
In the meantime, Imedashvili already has some videos about the South Ossetia war and they’re up on YouTube, which will give you an indication of the arthouse sensibility he’ll bring to the film. (In Russian and Georgian, but extreme melodrama is a universal language.)