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 Alexey Balabanov

Born:   25 February 1959
Deceased:   18 May 2013

Film Director


Alekxey Balabanov has gained wide acclaim of mass public thanks to his tough action movies about Russian mafia. Why bandits? “People have always watched and will watch films about bandits” – says the film director in his interviews. “I create films in turn: popular – unpopular… and it is not deliberately, it just happens this way.” Soon Balabanov is going to release a new (non-bandit) film, and time will show, if it is popular or not. Anyway, all of his films, whether obviously aimed at love of masses or not, are not devoid of significant ideas and powerful impact on the viewer – that is what makes Aleksei Balabanov interesting.

Alexey Balabanov was born on February 25, 1959 in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg). In 1981 he graduated from Translation Faculty of Gorky Teachers’ Training University. From 1983 to 1987 Alexei worked as an assistant of a film director at Sverdlovsk film studio. Later Balabanov studied at the experimental course “Authors’ Cinema” of the High Courses for Scriptwriters and Film Directors, graduating in 1990.


Balabanov directing 'Voyna' Balabanov started his creative career in “big cinema” in 1991 with directing his first full-length feature Shchastlivyye dni (Happy Days) after his own script. In the same year he became the co-author of the script Pogranichniy Conflict (Frontier Conflict) by the young film director Nadezhda Khvorova. In 1992 Aleksei Balabanov together with producers Sergei Selyanov and Vasily Grigor'ev established the STV Film Company, which later participated in creation of almost all of his films.

In 1994 the film director released Zamok (The Castle) after the famous novel by Frantz Kafka. In the same year Balabanov debuted as a producer, with the film Ispoved neznakomtsu (Secrets Shared with a Stranger). Next year he took part in creation of the film almanac Pribytiye poyezda (The Arrival of a Train) (1995) dedicated to the 100th anniversary of cinematography; Balabanov’s segment Trofim won a number of cinema awards.


'Brat' However, it was the criminal action Brat (The Brother) (1997) that became Aleksei Balabanov’s real breakthrough into the “high cinema league”. The feature starring Sergei Bodrov Jr. (1971-2002) and with the soundtrack containing songs by Vyacheslav Butusov, the frontman of rock band Nautilus Pompilius at once made a cult movie and the most smashing box office hit of the year.

After such an overwhelming success with mass audience Aleksei Balabanov made quite a sudden turn by creating the art-house film Pro urodov i lyudey (Of Freaks and Men) (1998) starring Sergei Makovetsky. The original and provocative film tells about the first pornographers in pre-revolutionary Russia.

Balabanov’s next work was Brat 2 (The Brother II) (2000). Unlike the first Brother, which can be considered a tough social drama, its sequel is rather a black comedy with an almost unfeasible plot. Soundtrack to this bright and impressive movie included music by then little known rock bands, which became famous along with the film right after its premiere. So, the second Brother also won love of the Russians: it became another Balabanov’s blockbuster, an absolute champion of the year on the film market.


'Zhmurki' Soon Alexey Balabanov again surprised everyone by starting work on the film Reka (River, or At the End of the Earth) featuring life in a Yakut village for the leprous in the early 20th century. Unfortunately, a tragedy befell the film crew – the actress of the Yakut Nastional Theatre Tuinara Svinoboeva, who played the main role, died after a car accident. The project was stopped. Yet, a year later the film director arranged the footage with the off-screen comments of the missing scenes.

In 2002 Alexey Balabanov released the feature Voyna (War) (2002) starring Sergei Bodrov Jr again. The film telling the story of people taken hostage by Chechen terrorists was shot in the mountains of North Caucasus, and in particular in Chechnya.


Balabanov directing 'Mne ne bolno' Balabanov’s black comedy Zhmurki (Blind Man's Bluff) (2005) brings us back to the mid 1990s: noisy and bloody bustle with shooting, biting dialogues and fights in a provincial town, and all that around a case with heroine.

The touching melodrama Mne ne bolno (It Doesn't Hurt) (2006) about three young designers and a way-out woman excels in literate composition, gradually and unhurriedly immersing the characters and viewers into a painful mystery.

In 2007 Alexey Balabanov released his famous film Gruz 200 (Freight 200) based on his own scenario.





Vera Ivanova and Mikhail Manykin

Tags: Russian cinema Russian film directors    

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