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Hooray for Kollywood? Russian film hub in the works

July 3, 2012 |  2:47 pm

California has long had the Hollywood we know and love -- or loathe. India boasts lush Hindi musicals and dramas from Mumbai, formerly Bombay, where the industry is now known as Bollywood. Nigeria has rapidly risen in the movie business too, coining the name Nollywood as staggering numbers of new movies flow from Lagos.

Now Russia, which has one of the longest-running film industries in the world, is trying to get in on the act, with plans for a "Kollywood," Russian media report. Unused factories in the town of Kolomna outside Moscow are to be revamped as a mecca for Russian filmmakers with studios and classrooms for movie moguls in training, the RIA Novosti news agency reported Tuesday.

Kollywood is reportedly set to open next year and is seeking both government and private funding to bankroll the project. The region's culture minister, Anton Gubankov, has said launching Kollywood will cost more than $3 million in renovations and new equipment, though other estimates have pegged the costs at as high as $9 million, according to Russia Today

The Russian film industry has struggled to compete with Hollywood even on Russian soil, to the chagrin of directors and producers. "Russia celebrates the Day of National Cinema this Saturday. Sadly, as it turns out, there is not much to celebrate," Russia Today quipped ruefully in an August report, lamenting that young people had little interest in Russian movies. A few months later, RIA Novosti ran an article blaming industry woes on "the lack of experienced personnel and highly inefficient spending of state funds on filmmaking."

Besides those shortcomings, some critics also blame the increased role of the Russian government in the movie business in recent years for crimping creativity, a problem, which, while not as pervasive as during the Soviet era, they hope the new center would avoid.

Kollywood will succeed only “if government officials and prejudiced cinematographers don't start poking their noses in," cinema critic Viktor Matizen was quoted as saying in the Moscow Times.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

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