Shooting of the film, Belye Rosy-2 (White Dew-2), directed by Alexandra Butor, has recently finished. The film is the sequel to the 1983 movie, which became a legend of Soviet filmmaking.
The original, was created by the outstanding Belarusian director, Igor Dobrolyubov, who based it on the screenplay of the well-known playwright, Alexey Dudarev. Today, motion picture aficionados consider it a national comedy. Whether spectators will like the new film as much as its predecessor will be seen when it appears on the big screen.
So, the shootings are over. Now, when the film is being edited, Alexandra can make sure that everything has been done correctly. When the young director was telling me about the filming, she had a faraway look in her eyes, and, she was reliving those moments of pleasure and happiness which she felt whilst making the film, which, she said, can have its ups and downs. She was happy to talk about the story without any fear of the superstition that one can’t give information about a film before its release. She was even happy to show me several on-set photos, and allowed them to be used in the magazine if they were suitable. We hope that her film Belye Rosy-2, and Alexandra Butor, who is a debutant in the big filmmaking, as well as all those who worked on the film, the majority of whom are Belarusian actors, will be successful. For many of them it is their debut also. We hope that they all have a long and beautifully creative life.
Alexandra, how did Belye Rosy-2 appear in your destiny? Explain the background. Did you consult your teacher, Alexander Yefremov, when you were thinking of tackling such responsible work or not? Were you afraid or not? After all, you had to deal with such famous names — Dudarev, Dobrolyubov and the huge love of the 1983 film.
The background is absolutely unexpected. I was graduating from the Academy of Arts, getting the second higher education of the film director, as my first profession is TV director. Of course, I understood that I needed a project for my debut. Therefore I started preparing it with Yulia Girel, the co-author of Belye Rosy-2, half a year before graduating. The project was called Sweet Farewell of Vera. We had finished it, and sent it on the competition which was announced by the Ministry of Culture. Suddenly, I received an offer from Oleg Silvanovich, the Director General of the Film Studio "Belarusfilm", to work on Belye Rosy-2. I was shocked! Initially, I said no, I did not want to, as it would be my first film! It’s a huge risk! I was confused. I admit that I was afraid that I could spoil my future in filmmaking if the film was no good. But I had some luck. There was time to think it over as I was going to Yalta for the festival with my graduation work. And there I was with Alexander Yefremov the Belarusian director of foreign drama and films. I did not tell him at once about the offer of Silvanovich. I wanted to, but was afraid of his reaction. But one time, I was sitting near the pool. The sun was shining, the sea was lapping and the atmosphere was pleasant and relaxing. I suddenly saw Yefremov nearby, and I dared to approach him and tell him about the project. It seemed that Yefremov was shocked at first. But he said, ‘If you feel with your heart that you should work on this scenario, to copy Dudarev’s story, then do it.’ For me it was such advice that I did not know what I felt in my heart, or how to hear what it was saying.
Did you envisage the future film entirely at once, or did you have to wait in order to understand how it would turn out in the end?
When I came back from Yalta, I understood what the film would be about. If destiny had not given me those ten days, I would have refuses the offer, after all, it is hard to deal with such names and such audience love. I returned to Minsk, went to the film studio and told Silvanovich that I would work on the film, because I know how to make it.
Have you talked to Dudarev?
Indeed. Together with Yulia Girel and Alexey Anufrievich we worked on the scenario. I can’t express the delight I felt meeting Dudarev. This person is a gift which was sent to me by destiny. He understood me, and did not put any obstacles in the way of our discussions. He is such a great master, without any dismissive attitude. He consulted me, invited me to his theatre and even asked my opinion about performances. Our relationship became warm, and it was pleasant for me.
And what is this film about? Do you have childhood memories connected with the first film?
“I wanted to make the film about the return of a family to their home, about its unification. In the 90s, when money began to rule the world, the members of this family went to different parts of the world in search of work. They were scattered all over the world, trying to survive, but, eventually, these people understood that they are alone and that their strength is in unification. So they return to the nest. So I needed spring for this purpose and the storks coming home. Belye Rosy-2 is a film of my childhood. I adored Nikolay Karachentsev. And I was happy to receive such an offer.
What do you remember about the filmmaking period? And how did shooting go? Were there any obstacles or did everything run smoothly? What were the most difficult and easiest moments?
I remember everything. Certainly, there were some difficulties in the organisational process, and even a desire to refuse the job, which appeared even before shooting started. You know, fear is an unpleasant thing and, as I was a debutant, I felt a worried attitude towards me, as if people were saying ‘Well girl, let’s see what you can do.’ But, I repeat, it was only at the beginning. As for obstacles, there were no obstacles. Everything ran smoothly, thanks to Silvanovich. I am very grateful for the careful attention. When work on the film was started, he told the director of the group, and to other people, that perfect conditions had been created for us. He also asked that nobody distracted us from our work, including journalists. Then, when shooting started, I grew cold from the thought that I had been thinking about refusing this work. Everything was good and easy. When the work was nearing completion, I gave presents, with different wishes, to all the actors. For example, to Victor Manaev, the Belarusian actor, I wrote that each day filming had been like a holiday. In general, I love shooting so much that filming for me is a fascinating adventure, an enormous pleasure, I adore it. Because of this, I was never tired. People in the group were surprised, and talked about this. Such energy which is not typical of Belarusians. Well, not Belarusian, because I come from the Caucasus, from North Ossetia. My mum is Ossetian, father is Belarusian. Probably, Caucasian energy is in my genes. In general I do not get tired at any shooting.
What was the most difficult thing? Nothing! Gradually, when everything started making progress, the feeling that I was making a very good film started coming to me. Certainly, there were moments of adaptation in the group, but they were not painful, and this is natural, as it happens, when people in a team start to learn each other.
And what does Yulia Girel do?
She writes scenes for TV. By the way, our scenario Sweet Farewell of Vera has passed the competition and will be launched in February, 2014.
Tell us about the actors. How many of them did you have? With whom was it easy to work? With whom it was difficult? What can you say about the youth? Are you satisfied on the whole?
Well, actors are my favourite theme. I can talk with pleasure about these remarkable people. In the film there are eleven main characters. And there are a lot of bit parts. By the way, each scene is a whole destiny, character. Vera Polyakova, the leading master of scenes of the Theatre Studio of Film Actor performed a small episode and was so impressed that she shared her opinions with Alexander Yefremov. He suddenly arrived at the film studio, and came to my office. I was speechless with happiness. The master came to me with words.
Also what is remarkable, what I am proud of and what I have understood recently: I have gathered actors of many leading theatres in Minsk: the Yanka Kupala Theatre, the Belarusian Republican Young Spectators’ Theatre, the Russian Theatre, the Belarusian Drama Theatre and the Belarusian Army Theatre. Lithuania is represented in our film by the Soviet legend, Juozas Budraitis, and Russia by Andrey Merzlikin. They work alongside our actors Sergey Zhbankov, Pavel Kharlanchuk, Victor Manaev, Yulia Smirnova, Anatoly Golub and Galina Kukhalskaya. Everyone is good in his or her own way. Kukhalskaya is so nice; she has a remarkable scene in the film together with Manaev. They are both wonderful. They both work wholeheartedly and are highly professional. The youngest actress is Yulia Smirnova. She is 23 year old, and this is her film debut. I really wanted Yulia for this role. Her appearance is not Belarusian, but eastern. We re-coloured her hair, changed the colour of her eyes with lenses. Yulia was selected for this role, not so much because of changes in appearance, but because she resembles Andrey Merzlikin, who plays her father. Yulia plays a very romantic heroine.
Sasha, tell me. Is the myth that Russian actors are better than Belarusians eliminated?
Well, this is really a myth. About five or six years ago the difference was obvious. At that time, Belarusian theatre actors did not have the experience in filmmaking that they have today. Therefore the difference in skill between the Russian and Belarusian actors is not seen today. Our actors started working in Russian films, and this, certainly, perfected their skills. Take for example a good Russian serial, One-Woman Men; the leading role in it is played by the Belarusian actor, Polina Syrkina. She is wonderful! And Anatoly Golub is also good. They are even better than the Russians. Veronica Plyashkevich, the actor at the Gorky National Academic Drama Theatre, is also a wonderful performer. I shot her earlier in preview trailers. We have a lot of very good actors who were not in Belye Rosy. Take for example Sergey Zhuravlev, the national Belarusian actor, I like him very much. He is so bright, too bright for Belye Rosy. When I see him, I have a desire to write separate scenes for this actor. Yes, I need my whole life to shoot all my favourite actors. By the way, in Belye Rosy-2, Manaev plays his first big film role. He is funny and can joke. He said to me, with all his inimitable comedy intonation, ‘Here, Alexandra, we have taken our first steps in filmmaking.’ I would like to work with him again or see him in a drama. Manaev has a lot of film potential. I am happy that I will soon go with him to visit Budraitis. It is doubly pleasant to recollect the warm atmosphere during shooting. I hope that I will work in new films with many actors who has become close to me.
Do you think that Juozas Budraitis has grasped the essence of Dudarev`s protagonist, Andrey Khodas?
He did not need to grasp anything. After reading the script Budraitis said, “I am totally Khodas”. His hero is wise, kind and strong in spirit and body. A person who refused a city, vanity and mad, senseless speed for the sake of harmony with himself and with nature. We made for his character a house, where there were many books and no TV. When I first got acquainted with Budraitis via Skype, I saw that behind him was a huge bookcase, and was very happy. It should be the same in the film and we made a similar bookcase in Khodas house.
In one interview you said that you feel great pleasure when you watch a good film and feel like a spectator, rather than a professional, and that this shows the high quality of work from the director. After all, it is not for nothing that people say ‘a director is a soul of a film’. Could you watch Belye Rosy-2 in such a way, or it is impossible for some reason?
It is difficult for me to answer this question. I have not seen the whole film yet. But I can tell the one thing. When I worked on the script, and when I was shooting, certainly, mentally I was sitting in a cinema and was imagining that I was watching it, wondering if it would be interesting for me or not. And now, when the film is being edited, I catch myself thinking that it is interesting for me, that the action grabs me. It is my work, and it is all very valuable to me, therefore it is difficult to separate the director from the spectator. Probably, when time passes, I will see the film as normal spectators will.
When we will see the film?
In the spring of 2014. We want to time it for the 8th March holiday. I hope that we will be able to do that. This film is about love. There are a lot of beautiful love threads for all ages. There is romantic, children`s love, there are also other threads of love; Galyunya and Ivan, whose family life collapses because of household problems, but the people love each other and overcome these problems. There is a love line about Khodas and Irina which is ageless. March the 8th is already spring, and in the film it is also spring. The return of birds — the return of people.
What next? Apart from Sweet Farewell of Vera are there any other filmmaking plans?
I will tell you a little about this film. If Belye Rosy-2 is a lyrical comedy, so Vera is almost a parable. It is conceived as conversation about deep things: about loneliness and about that life is worth of living. But the story is very simple — about the love of elderly woman and a young man.
I have one actor from Lithuania in mind, Graёina BaikЁtytė. She played a mother in the film Star Boy. In the script the heroine is 60 years old, and I need a woman who grows old beautifully. Graёina is such. She is a woman of unreal beauty. And it is supposed that Pavel Kharlanchuk will play the young man. I have a big dream. I want to work with Dudarev again. I have an eye on one of his sensational plays. I also dream of shooting a film based on Vladimir Korotkevich’s Ears under Your Sickle. Perhaps, it will be a serial picture, 10-12 series.
Do you still have a love of TV? What projects are in work?
I am starting to move away from TV. Certainly, it is nice for me that I have had such projects as Paulinka — NEW. I also shot more than 50 musical clips for the group Tyani Tolkai, stars of Belarusian variety performers, among which are Irina Dorofeyeva, Zhannet, groups Belarusians, LOM. I made tele-programmes and documentaries. I started working on TV during my studies in the Academy of Arts, in 1999. It seems to me that I have done everything that I could on TV. Now my big love is filmmaking.
Is your family creative? Does your daughter want to become a director?
My husband, Mikhail Tikhonov, the film editor, works in TV. And at the same is getting an education in order to work as an editor in filmmaking. He is a very talented person. Clever, well read and with good taste and my strictest critic. I like to ask his opinion about my work. My daughter`s name is Liza, she is 12 years old. She was very glad, when I shot the Paulinka, clips. And now she says with pride ‘I am a daughter of a director’.
Why do you think people, including me, love films?
Films induce us to dream, and then a light is born in a soul. Therefore I do not like gloomy films that, after watching them, make you want to stop living and hang yourself. I will shoot films that, thanks to which, people will start to believe that could become better. And, so, they will be better.
P.S. When the issue was being prepared for publication, Alexandra announced the news that excited the whole shooting team of Belye Rosy-2.
“Today we had a really extreme filmmaking day shooting a small scene with Nikolay Karachentsev. Tears of happiness were pouring from eyes of the whole crew, not just the actors! It was a wonderful day!”
By Valentina Zhdanovich
Film with continuation
[b]Shooting of the film, Belye Rosy-2 (White Dew-2), directed by Alexandra Butor, has recently finished. The film is the sequel to the 1983 movie, which became a legend of Soviet filmmaking.[/b] The original, was created by the outstanding Belarusian director, Igor Dobrolyubov, who based it on the screenplay of the well-known playwright, Alexey Dudarev. Today, motion picture aficionados consider it a national comedy. Whether spectators will like the new film as much as its predecessor will be seen when it appears on the big screen.