Gorky Film Studio
a Victor Ginzburg Film
Based on the novel by Victor Pelevin
Generation P, adapted from Victor Pelevin’s iconic Russian bestseller, follows the strange adventures of Babylen Tatarsky as he evolves from a disillusioned young man in the drab days of post-Communist Moscow to the chief “creative” behind the virtual world of Russian politics….
When Babylen was a Young Pioneer, his generation received a gift from the decaying Soviet state in the form of a bottle of Pepsi, of Russian manufacture. Not just a beverage, it was also a symbol of hope that some day a new, magical life would arrive from the other side of the ocean. The arrival of this life, and the way it transformed these ex-Pioneers, is what our film is about.
In the early Nineties, Tatarsky, a frustrated poet, takes a job as an advertising copywriter, and discovers a knack for putting a distinctively Russian twist on Western-style ads. But the deeper Tatarsky sinks into the advertising world, the more he wonders if he has sacrificed too much for money. His soaring success leads him into a surreal world of spin doctors, gangsters, drug trips, and the spirit of Che Guevara who, via a Ouija board, imparts to him the dazzling theory of WOWism, about how television destroys the individual spirit.
Though named in honor of Lenin, Babylen opts instead to believe in his “Babylonian” destiny, and secretly searches for the beautiful goddess Ishtar, who becomes for him a symbol of fortune. Meanwhile, the people around Babylen - clients, colleagues - perish in the violent dog-eat-dog world of new Russian capitalism. In Nineties Moscow, this is taken as the ordinary course of daily affairs.
Tatarsky is invited to join an all-powerful PR firm run by a cynically ruthless advertising genius, Leonid Azadovsky. Genuine artifacts from Babylonian cults and pictures of Ishtar adorn Azadovsky’s office, and Tatarsky senses that he is getting closer to the object of his dreams. Azadovsky invites Tatarsky to participate in a secret process of rigged elections and false political advertising. And as a result of his brilliance, Tatarsky achieves the ultimate, as he creates and gets elected a "virtual" president. But like Faust selling his soul to the devil, this ex-humanist gradually descends to the level of a reprobate, finding that he no longer belongs to himself, but is trapped in a virtual world of his own creation
In a ritualistic Babylonian initiation, Babylen replaces Azadovsky as head of the Agency. He finally meets Ishtar, the object of his obsession, just as he enters the very dream sequence that has inhabited his sleep for so long. There, he is offered control of the mechanism that produces “simple human happiness” - and can control the world.
Yes, this story explores the philosophical theme of man’s identity in the modern branded world, and that’s the substance of the film - but not its tone. Pelevin's dark humor doesn't leave room for moralistic admonitions. Everything that takes place on the screen ranges from drily comic to farcical. But a certain aftertaste, of course, remains
I've always been drawn to stories that challenge the norm, and go beyond what¹s considered reality. I found Pelevin's brand of cyberpunk mysticism very appealing - dark, with a great sense of humor, and full of revelations about the world we live in. Generation P combined a lot of what I've lived through, both personally as a former ³creative² in the service of the goddess Ishtar, and historically, as someone who closely witnessed the huge transformation in Russian society after communism.
For me, Babylen Tatarsky¹s story is at once a realistic and ironic story about what happened to an individual, and to Russian society, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It¹s also a hallucinatory tale of the quest for gold, of how to make it in today¹s world, of a head-spinning rise to power, and a fall from grace. I was interested in seeing the border between real and virtual in Babylen¹s world gradually disappear, ultimately bringing the viewer to a place I hope they will recognize as the world we all live in today.
This is not a conventional narrative, so I looked for suspense in the psychological details of the dialogue scenes, in the rhythm and drive of the film, and in the ups and downs of Babylen¹s journey - whether in a stand-off between gangsters, the election of a virtual president, or in the hallucinations which bring him ³enlightenment.² The script was rewritten constantly, on the set and well into post-production.
The making of the film took four long years of production alone, due to stop-and-go financing. This is a truly independent film, made without studio or government financing (despite our best efforts). But weirdly and fortunately, we did get partial financing from some of the major brands that appear in the story.
The film makes no compromises with the political absurdities of modern Russia. In its depiction of the emergence of the Russian corporate state, with its control of mass media, I¹ve tried to make a truly political film about how the Nineties set the stage for the Putin era. It also has scenes with drugs, and plenty of foul language, both of which are taboo in Russian cinema. So the film’s release was important for Russia, and I'm glad that it had such a strong impact there, and maybe beyond.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Victor Ginzburg (Director)
Victor Ginzburg moved from Moscow to the US at age 15, and got his film degree from the School of Visual Arts in New York. An award-winning director of music videos, documentaries, short films, and episodic television, Ginzburg's first feature was the documentary, RESTLESS GARDEN, about the vast social, cultural, and even sexual changes which took place in the first few years after the disappearance of the Soviet Union. It screened at festivals in Amsterdam, Gothenburg, Moscow, Sorrento, Sao Paulo, etc. For the last five years, Ginzburg has dedicated himself to the writing, filming, and completion of GENERATION P, which opened on 527 screens across Russia, Kazakhstan, and the Ukraine in April of 2011. Well-received by both critics and audiences, it grossed $5M in those territories alone. At its international premiere, at the Karlovy Vary IFF, it won a Special Mention Jury Prize. It is continuing to be screened at many other international film festivals. Ginzburg currently resides in both Moscow and Venice, California.
Aleksei Rodionov (Director of Photography)
Aleksei Rodionov is one of Russia’s most celebrated cinematographers. He shot Elem Klimov’s harrowing Come and See, widely considered to be one of the greatest war films ever, and is well-known to western audiences through his work with Sally Potter - he was the DP for both Orlando (1992, with Tilda Swinton) and Yes (2003, with Joan Allen). Rodionov also shot Souleymane Cissé’s Waati (1995), which was nominated for a Palme D’Or at Cannes.
ABOUT THE CAST
Vladimir Yepifantsev (Babylen Tatarsky)
Vladimir Epifantsev graduated with an acting degree from Moscow's Schukin Theatre School, and with a directing degree from GITIS, the Russian theatrical arts academy. In 1994, he founded the “Prok-theatre,” one of Moscow's most progressive companies, and has continued working in both avant-garde and mainstream productions. Yepifantsev is especially well-known for action roles in movies and TV mini-series, such as Escape and Man From the East, and is married with two children.
Mikhail Yefremov (Leonid Azadovsky)
Grandson of a director of Moscow’s legendary Bolshoi Theater, Yefremov’s father was a famous actor and his mother a well-known actress and acting teacher at the Moscow Art Theater. He started acting at 13, and has had a popular and illustrious career in film, television, and stage. One of the most famous actors in Russia, he has won almost every dramatic and cultural award in that country, and is especially well-known for the films Middle Age Crisis (1998) and Frontier: the Taiga Novel (2000). He is equally adept in both comic and dramatic roles, and is married with four children.
Andrei Fomin (Sergei Morkovin)
Fomin first came to notice in the 1988 film Little Vera, which won awards at film festivals around the world. A well-known actor and celebrity in Russia, he is as comfortable in the theatre, or in films like the 2006 hit, Playing the Victim, as he is hosting television events, awards shows, or world-class parties from Moscow to Cannes.
Vladimir Menshov (Farsook Farseikin)
Equally well-loved as both a director and actor, Menshov is probably best-known for his direction of the 1979 Oscar-winning film, Moscow Does Not Believe In Tears, which starred his wife Vera Alentova. Though specializing in films about the everyday life of common people, political difficulties precluded him from attending the Oscars, and he is an outspoken critic of many aspects of Russian politics, culture, and cinema. As an actor, he has appeared in over 70 films, and western audiences will recognize him as one of the leads in Timur Bekmambetov’s films Night Watch and Day Watch.
Sergey Shnurov (Andrei Gireyev)
Shnurov, better known as “Shnur,” is one of the biggest rock stars in Russia. From 1997-2008, he fronted the hugely popular and controversial ska-punk band Leningrad, and after that, Rubl. He is also an accomplished actor (4) and film composer. His songs were used in Liev Schreiber’s film, Everything Is Illuminated, as well as the Grand Theft Auto videogame, and the hit Russian film Boomer (sometimes translated as Bimmer or Bummer).
Andrei Panin (Kolya / Nikolai Smirnov)
Starting off as a stage actor at the Moscow Art Theater, Fomin was from early on associated with the plays of Anton Chekhov, which he often performed in with his wife, the actress Natalya Rogozhina. Since 1999, he has enjoyed success in both films and television, and is also known as a director. Of special interest to GENERATION P fans, Panin played a character closely based on Vladimir Putin in the film A Kiss - Not for the Press.
Oleg Taktarov (“Little” Vovchik)
World Sambo Champion, Russian National Judo Champion, and four-time European and Asian Jujitsu Champion, Taktarov came to the US in 1995, and soon became the reigning UFC Champion. At the same time, he started studying acting at the famous Los Angeles Playhouse, and was soon championed by Robert DeNiro, with whom he has appeared in several movies. One of Russia’s most popular actors and a bestselling author, Taktarov has also appeared in such Hollywood films as We Own the Night (with Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Wahlberg), Predators, and Righteous Kill (with Al Pacino).
Vladimir Yepifantsev – Babylen Tatarsky
Michael Yefremov – Leonid Azadovsky
Andrei Fomin – Sergei Morkovin
Sergei Shnurov – Gireyev
Vladimir Menshov – Farsook Farseikin
Andrei Panin – Kolya the driver / Nicolai Smirnov
Aleksandr Gordon – Vladimir Khanin
Oleg Taktarov – “Little” Vovchik
Roman Trakhtenberg – Alexander Blo
Ivan Okhlobystin – Malyuta
Renata Litvinova – Alla
Andrey Vasiliev – Azadovsky advisor
Amalia Mordvinova - Lena
Leonid Parfyonov – TV Journalist
Director of Photography
Aleksei Rodionov R.G.C.
Written and Produced by
Victor Ginzburg & Djina Ginzburg
From the novel Generation “Π”
By Victor Pelevin
Victor Ginzburg, Djina Ginzburg,
Aleksei Riazantsev, Stas Ershov
Andrei Vasiliev, Yury Krestinskiy, Leonid Ogorodnikov, Danil Khachaturov,
Vladimir Yakovlev, Andrew Paulson
Jim Steele, Roger Trilling
Dmitry Yurstvaig Ilia Shkop, Rafael Minasbekian
Christine Havercroft, Ivan Zasursky, Stephen Benson,
Kaveh Cohen & Michael David Nielsen, Alexander Hacke
Additional Music by
Anton Anisimov, Vladimir Markov, Karolina Maciejewska
with the participation of Irakly Kvirikadze
Concept Design by
Alex Tylevich, Daniel Auber, Anton Vasiliev
Ivan Zasursky, Steven Benson, Christine Havercroft
Production Design by
Pyotr Prorokov, Nina Kobiashvili, Yury Matei, Dmitry Petrov
Yelena Fomichyova Key makeup artist
Yelena Gofman Key makeup artist
Dmitri Ovchnnikov Supevising sound editor
Sergei Shiposha Sound mixer
Vladimir Pryamov Sound mixer
Rick Ash Sound mixer
Ryan Collins Supervising sound editor
Henry Auerbach Dialogue editor
Wade Barnett Sound effects editor
Tim Limer Sound recordist
Visual Effects by
Arkadiy Dubinin Visual effects supervisor
Vladimi Leschinski Visual effects supervisor
Anton Vasiliev Visual effects supervisor
Alexandra Afanasieva Compositor
Pavel Akimov Visual effects artist
Sknarin Alexander Lead CG artist
Julia Ereshko Rotoscope artist
Denis Gheiko Compositor
Eugene Gittsigrat Art director
Sofia Gorlenko Visual effects coordinator
Arseny Gutov Digital compositor
Ludmila Ivanova Compositor
Dmitry Ivoylov Motion capture technical director
Mikhail Komissarov Compositor
Mikhail Komissarov Digital artist
Nikolay Koretsky Compositor
Aleksandr Kozyakov Technical animator: motion capture
Vladimir Leschinski Visual effects supervisor
Maxim Levashov Digital artist
Elena Lotanova Visual effects
Andrei V. Nikitin Visual effects artist
Olga Nikulina Visual effects coordinator
Aleksey Osipenkov Digital compositor
Aleksey Osipenkov Motion capture technology lead
Dmitry Polyakov Compositor
Pavel Raevskij Compositor
Yury Rudakov Digital effects artist
Natalia Shmidova Digital artist
Natalya Shmidova Digital effects artist
Pavel Shnitov Digital effects artist
Yuriy Sorokin Digital compositor
Anton Vassiliev Digital effects artist
Denis Volkov Digital compositor
Ilya Vostrov Models and sets
Martin Ivanov Stunt driver
Viktor Ivanov Stunt coordinator
Viktor Ivanov Stunt driver
Alexander Kraevskiy Stunt rigger
Oleg Poddubny Stunt player
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Djina Ginzburg Costume designer
Oleg Matrokhin Key costumer
Alexandr Petlyura Key costumer
Olga Nikulina Post-production coordinator
Sergey Zaporozhtsev Colorist