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Ivan I Tverdovsky • Director

“The special schools are like a jail”


- With Corrections Class, Russian director Ivan I. Tverdovsky took home the Special Jury Prize and the Cineuropa Prize from the 16th Lecce European Film Festival

Ivan I Tverdovsky  • Director
© Michal Cizek/Agence France-Presse

Born in 1988, Russian director Ivan I Tverdovsky, who has already made a number of documentaries that have garnered awards at international festivals, set his feature debut, Corrections Class [+see also:
film review
interview: Ivan I Tverdovsky
film profile
, in a special class for disabled children. The film, co-produced by German outfit Jomami Filmproduktion and having already won prizes at Karlovy Vary (read the review), Cottbus, Thessaloniki and Marrakesh, took home the Special Jury Prize and the Cineuropa Prize from the 16th Lecce European Film Festival.

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Cineuropa: The story of Corrections Class is based on a novel by the psychologist Ekaterina Murashova. How did the film project come about? What has changed compared to the book?
Ivan I Tverdovsky: My producers invited me to take part in their project. I read a script that was based on Ekaterina Murashova’s novel Corrections Class. I thought it was a very boring and antiquated story. I mean, an old woman wrote a story about friendship and betrayal, but she couldn’t understand this environment or the real life of her characters. I said that I wanted to see a real corrections class in Russia. We tried it and saw for ourselves the real situations in the special schools. It looked like a jail. I was really shocked, and I wanted to talk about it.

The film is a raw portrait of the Russian educational system for disabled children. Was it released in theatres in Russia? What were the reactions like?
I think we were very fortunate. After the premiere at the Kinotavr Russian Film Festival, 20th Century Fox and A-Company wanted to distribute the film in Russian cinemas. It screened in about 300 movie theatres and performed well at the box office. One of the main TV channels in Russia presented Corrections Class on TV as well. 

How did you prepare for this movie? What kind of research did you do?
I really like documentary films; before Corrections Class, I made eight of them. This time I wanted to make a blend of fiction and documentary. I put my experience into this script because I thought that it was the most important part. Before filming, I attended actual lessons in corrections classes. I could see that the teachers were not very excited about this educational programme and viewed it as a burden on their daily routine. However, I did not aim to create a film for a very limited audience; I wanted to make a movie about growing up, and it can connect with every one of us who was ever 15 and in school.

You said that Dancer in the Dark influenced you for this film. Could you tell us more about it and about your cinematographic references?
I grew up in a family of directors. My dad is a famous Russian and European documentary-film director. When we got a VHS recorder, he brought home new Von Trier films that he had rented. I saw Von Trier’s films when I was a kid, and they had a huge impact on me. And I really like Soviet and Russian independent documentary filmmakers as well as Von Trier’s films. 

The movie participated in several festivals and won several awards. Was it sold in other European countries for distribution in theatres? Are there other festivals in sight?
There are quite a few coming up – for example, the Taipei International Film Festival, where the film is in the Young Talents competition. Sadly, distribution is complicated, as we did not participate in one of the three “landmark” events (Venice/Berlin/Cannes), we don’t have any well-known cast members and we portray a tough subject matter, so it’s hard to break down the distribution barriers. So far, we have only sold to Taiwan. Hopefully, the Cineuropa Prize will have an impact and will help us to find European distributors.

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