With the recent release of his first feature short film, The Gift (2021) writer/director Radik Kudoyarov talks about his journey into filmmaking, the filmmakers that inspired him, his upcoming project, and the challenges facing the movie business today.

Can you tell us about your background and what led you to become a director?

This happened completely by accident, although I sometimes thought that one day I will make movies, but for no obvious reason. It seems to me that it is only now, years later, that I can answer this question.

The first time I was directly exposed to the world of cinema, I was just under ten years old. At the time, the famous actor and director, Sergei Bondarchuk, took me by the hand and led me to the world-famous Red Square in Moscow (Lenin’s Mausoleum). It was a completely unexpected and fortuitous encounter. Amazingly, this is the first time that I have ever told this story.

As for film production, I was first exposed to it when I worked in a very large Russian media group. There, I was not concerned with the creative side of things but rather my task was the promotion of television and radio stations belonging to the group in all regions of Russia.

One day, my boss asked me to help out a famous producer and to be their consultant. Things worked out well and the film was soon shown on Russian television.

What obstacles did you encounter when you started out?

There were few, oddly enough. The doors of Russian television channels were open to me. The main thing was to learn how to develop and present a quality product that meets the requirements of the station. It was a time when there was stiff competition in documentary film. This is a key element and all producers had almost equal opportunities.

Today the situation is radically different.

Which film represents your greatest achievement?

I hope it will be one to come in the future.

What was the film that inspired you the most?

There are several of them. One of them is The Godfather (1972). I love that still, to this day, analyzing the film I always manage to find new facets, new nuances, to me this shows just how great this film really is. The film is so complex and well-made that this question really deserves a much longer answer than I can possibly give here.

Who is the director who influenced you the most?

Francis Ford Coppola. Another great personality is Woody Allen. For me, he is a phenomenon in the cinema. An incredible example of the fusion of talent and efficiency.

Why did you found your own production company?

After helping the producer I mentioned before with his project, I was soon asked by another to help out. Then another one after that. Little by little, not only did I enter the creation process, but I realized that they were trying to pay me less than I was contributing, something which led me to think that it was necessary to be independent, both creatively and financially.

For your film, The Gift, you chose the theme of lost childhoods, which, in the film, is all the more shocking since the protagonist’s childhood is taken from him by his own father. What interested you in this topic?

In fact, this film is part of my script for a feature film. I decided to test the potential of this story and with it my creative and technical capacities, with a view that if it worked out I could use it to fund a future feature film for the international market.

As for the theme of lost childhood, this is not the only subject of the film. This is a manifestation of intolerance and cruelty just as possible today or tomorrow as it was in the past. And, unfortunately, we have had very recent examples that prove this point.

How long did it take you to make the film and how did you distribute it to the short film audience?

Writing the script, the preparation, the shooting, and the post-production all took six weeks. And for distribution, I was lucky enough to work with professionals from Largo and their short film platform Sofy.tv.

I very much hope that the film will reach many people and that it will in some way touch them.

The Gift: Cast & Crew

How was the film received and did it elicit any surprising reactions?

The first reaction was shock. We heard reactions from audience members asking, “Why do you make such films?”

This only reinforces what I think. You see, we’ve gotten used to running away and evading difficult, complex themes, preferring to wait for them to catch up with us at the most unexpected time and place. This film is a bitter pill and medicines are rarely pleasant tasting!

Did the film win any awards?

Festivals (selections and prizes):

  • Malta Short Film Festival, “Best Actor” (2020, Malta, San Gwann)
  • Kazan International Film Festival (2020, Russia, Kazan)
  • Giffoni International Film Festival (2020, Italy, Giffoni)
  • Portobello Film Festival (2020, UK, London)
  • Moscow Shorts, «Best Cinematography» (2020, Russia, Moscow)
  • Arouca Film Festival, 2nd Best Film Festival (Silver Slate) and Best cinematography.
  • BAIKONUR International Short Film Festival (2020, Kazakhstan, Almaty, Astana)
  • International Film Festival “Moskovskaya Premiera” (2020, Russia, Moscow)
  • AGM International Short Film Competition (2020, Turkey, Adana)
  • Madurai International Short Film and Documentary Festival (2020, India, Madurai)
  • Asti International Film Festival (2020, Italy, Asti)
  • Russian Film Week and Golden Unicorn Awards (2020, UK, London)
  • International Film Festival (2020, Russia, Moscow)
  • ClujShorts International Short Film Festival (2021, Romania, Cluj-Napoca)
  • Martovski Festival (2021, Serbia, Belgrade)
  • ХХХ International Film Forum, The Golden Vityaz (2021, Russia)
  • Warcinema Festival named after Yury Ozerov (2021, Moscow, Russia)
  • Tracce Cinematografiche Film Fest (2021, Italy, Nettuno).
  • Pune Short Film Festival (2021, India, Pune)
  • Accessible Film Festival (2021, Turkey, Ankara)
  • Deep Fried Film Festival (2021, UK, Coatbridge)
  • Ocktober Film Festival (2021, USA, New-York)
  • Procida International Film Festival (2021, Italy, Procida)
  • International Film Festival of Lanzarote, Audience Award (2021, Spain, Lanzarote)
  • Russian-German Forum « Kinohafen » (2021, Germany, Hamburg)

What are your current film projects and will you continue with “The Gift” theme or will you explore new subjects?

We are now finishing a second short film “Atracción” which is taken from the same storyline as “The Gift” and features the same extremely evil character. I hope that the final version of the film will be ready by the end of the month. The trailer is ready and will be available very soon.

I would like to mention the script of the feature film from which two stories came out. It is a unique work, containing a very complex theme. The theme of the story is an act of retaliation that occurs when revenge is warranted.

The story takes place immediately after World War II. The idea was not only to create an original work based on a person or a fact but also to answer the fundamental question for any producer: where to sell the film? And I started to think in terms of creativity and market simultaneously, in order to build a story suitable for international distribution.

What are the main challenges facing the short film today?

This a pretty big subject. Let us limit ourselves to the case where a short film has enough potential to become an understandable and successful feature film.

Everything starts from the three classic pillars: the story, the money to make the product, and the search for co-producers or interested investors. It’s not just about people with money, but people who are in the same frame of mind to make your story into a feature film.

Ultimately, a movie isn’t just about money. There is plenty of money in other branches of economic activity. In addition, there is still too much arrogance in the world of cinema and unfortunately no drug to eliminate it. What is lacking is the balance in terms of the relationship with the short film, which often, from the point of view of the depth of the emotional interaction with the spectator, has nothing to envy in its big brother, the feature film.

Do you think technology is helping the movie industry overcome traditional problems? If so, which ones and how do you think technology will make things better for directors in the future?

The technician. In any environment where creation and production meet, technological support is needed. Moreover, technology has advantages: not everyone, even if they have seen a large number of films, is necessarily able to correctly assess all the parameters available to artificial intelligence. And in addition, it has its algorithms and does not ever get tired!

Also, there are two important points. A machine does not have intuition, an important and indispensable part of any analysis. And on the other hand, whatever technologies are advanced, they are doomed to failure with the participation of the man who is at the origin of the process. Technology comes only after him, and therefore, cannot be the cause, only the consequence, no matter how useful.

Any advice for young directors?

This is not so much advice, but a reminder. For me, cinema is just the language in which the author of the film addresses the general public, in a simple and understandable way but for a complex subject; sometimes the opposite happens. But this is not my cup of tea.

So the point is this: you must have something to say, to share. If so, you need an instrument. Cinema continues to be one of the most effective and attractive instruments that exist today.

Do you think it is essential to go through film school to be successful as a director?

No. Although a film school has its uses, of course. (https://flixtor2.to)

What was the most important moment of your film career?

Encounters, interviews, and friendships with a large number of incredibly interesting people, including world-famous personalities and little-known people. It is a very large universe that offers a lot of happiness.

Radik Kudoyarov’s film The Gift is now available on Sofy.tv.