Petr Levchenko’s feature debut Curator is based on a real-life murder of a Russian government official and the ensuing manhunt for the killer, a Georgian businessman. Yet, according to the director himself, the film is a family drama and not the intense action film you might expect. Inspired by French thrillers, Curator is a meditative feature, shot in a documentary-like style. I sat down with the filmmaker at the Warsaw Film Festival to discuss his storytelling style and the ideas behind his first film.
Curator is based on a real-life crime. What in particular caught you eye about the story?
It’s was a strong story about a father-son relationship and the relationship I have with my own father is very emotional, so it touched me. I saw an interview with the real-life shooter’s son – there was a big fuss about this crime in Russia. He was sitting in a fancy restaurant, a wealthy guy with a huge golden watch on his wrist, talking about how his father was a great guy and how the people he killed were also good. And then, in the middle of this interview, he said something like, "Family is family, but business is business and it must continue" and it just seemed so strange. After that, I started writing the script. To me, it was all about heritage and what one generation leaves for the next one. Even if it seems like a criminal film, Curator is actually about family.
The original name of the film was Shooter, why did you change it to Curator?
Excuse me for such a grand example, but if you take Romeo and Juliet, you can’t call it Tybalt. The main characters will still be Romeo and Juliet. The curator is the most important character here, not the shooter.
What influenced your directional decisions?
Curator was influenced by Jean-Pierre Melville. But I don’t think the photography was influenced by anyone in particular – the camera was constantly moving because that’s how the story needed to be told. We needed to be closer to the protagonist because everything was happening around him and we had to watch the world through his eyes.
There was an intriguing scene where kids in kindergarten put on a play influenced by Greek tragedies. What inspired that?
Of course, Russian kindergarteners don’t put on plays based on greek tragedies. But I wanted to show a story that the viewers would be familiar with, so I wrote a small play using famous characters from mythology: Zeus, Athena and so on. And it was also connected to the bigger plot, because the Golden Fleece was taken to Colchis, which is now Georgia.
What kind of an audience were you making this film for?
I don’t know who my audience is, you would have to be a bit strange to enjoy the film – it’s very hard to watch and appreciate.
FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Lemana Filandra is a writer and editor at "Klifhenger" (www.klifhenger.com), a site dedicated to movie analyses in Bosnian and English. She has been working as a freelance writer, a researcher, and a translator for the last three years. Currently, She is working on a PhD thesis in philosophy, focused on intersectional feminism and political implications of the concept of body. In the past she had different professional engagements at Sarajevo Film Festival, one of the most prominent European festivals. She also worked as a producer of a music video, a script supervisor and an assistant to a movie director.
Levan Tskhovrebadze is a student of film studies in Ilia State University, Georgia. He has written and made other kind of journalistic content for Georgian outlets like Indigo, Cinemania.ge or Demo.ge. Recently he started working for Ilia State University online publication Cinexpress.iliauni.edu.ge where he writes reviews, articles and also translates some of the important articles or interviews about cinema into Georgian. He has covered few festivals as a film critic. He was doing video blogs for Berlin International Film Festival 2019th edition and has made some content at CinéDOC-Tbilisi and Batumi International Art-House Film Festival. Cinexpress is also the Ilia State University’s Film Club where he made public reports before screenings.
Oleksandra Povoroznyk is a film critic and journalist based in Kyiv, Ukraine. She is currently working for Vertigo.com.ua, one of the largest Ukrainian websites devoted to the film industry and entertainment in general. She is also the host of two podcasts about movies and TV.
Denisa Jašová is a PhD student of Audiovisual Studies at Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. As a Film Studies and Archival Science graduate, she specializes on archival research in film and TV history, especially on Czechoslovak amateur film and TV non-fiction programmes from 70s and 80s. She also works as a researcher for TV documentaries, as a librarian in the Central European House of Photography and as a talk show host in student radio talk show called Cinefil. She frequently writes for magazine Film.sk, IFF Cinematik Piešťany and her first paper about the history of Slovak amateur film will be released in October 2019 in Kino-Ikon magazine. She simply loves film archives.
Bogdan Balla is a Romanian experimental film director and freelance film critic based in Bucharest. He studies film directing at the National University of Theatre and Film and writes for FILM MENU. Besides directing and producing his own films, he also works as an independent freelance film critic. He reads bell hooks and is passionate about queer cinema. He has a preference for working with archival footage for his films.
Svetlana Semenchuk is an author of such publications on cinema as “Seanse”, “The Art of Cinema”, “Cinema TV” and other. The author-composer of the books “S. M. Eisenstein: pro et contra: Sergey Eisenstein in national reflection: anthology” and “E. F. Bauer: pro et contra. Eugene Frantsevich Bauer in assessments of contemporaries, colleagues, researchers, film critics. Anthology”. Teacher of the St. Petersburg New Cinema School, and at the St. Petersburg State University of Cinema and Television.
TUTORS of FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Amber Wilkinson is a journalist with more than 20 years experience. She is the co-founder and editorial director of UK-based website Eye For Film. Her byline has appeared in The Times, Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and Filmmaker Magazine among others. She also contributes as a freelance film critic on BBC Radio Scotland. She has run several FIPRESCI young critics' workshops and mentored student critics at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2018 and 2019.
Tommaso Tocci is based in Italy, where he works as a film critic and translator covering film festivals across Europe for international publications. He has also worked for Berlinale Talents and for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he currently serves as Co-Programmer for the Saas-Fee Film Festival in Switzerland.