Alexandra Likhacheva and Anna Shalashina • Director and producer of Kretsul
"You see a person who lives a rich, fulfilling life, and not everyone can boast of such an existence"
- Russian writer-director Alexandra Likhacheva and producer Anna Shalashina tell us about Kretsul, winner of the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award at this year’s Transilvania Pitch Stop
Biopic drama Kretsul, based on the life of the judo champion Oleg Kretsul, is the debut feature from Russian writer-director Alexandra Likhacheva and won the €20,000 Eurimages Co-Production Development Award at this year’s Transilvania Pitch Stop (read news). Written by the director, the project is being produced by Anna Shalashina for WISH Media. Cineuropa talked to Likhacheva and Shalashina to further explore their project and their next steps following the award.
Cineuropa: Kretsul is based on the biography of judo champion Oleg Kretsul. Could you give us some more information on the judoka himself and on your project?
Alexandra Likhacheva: Oleg Kretsul was born on February 21, 1975 in Chisinau. He is the Honored Master of Sports in Judo, multiple winner and medalist of international and all-Union judo and sambo tournaments. He was awarded the Order of Friendship, Pride of the Nation, the Medal of the Order «For Merit to Fatherland» in Russia and the Order of Meritul civic in Moldova. In January 2018, he was elected as the President of the Paralympic Committee of Moldova. Before the collapse of the USSR, Oleg became the champion among youth and participated in his first Olympic games. But he later had a car accident in which his wife and her brother died. Oleg survived but lost his eyesight, completely and forever. But this is not the main storyline in our film.
The film begins with a couple of warm, sunny days full of errands and people. Oleg is getting ready for his wedding. Together with his friend Vitaly, they have lots of plans for the future. But three days later, after the car accident, all their plans become irrelevant, and it seems they have no future. It is this difficult and slow period of trying to find a way out, becoming tired with each other, victories, hope, and disappointments that forms the basis of our script. As we said, this is not a sports drama, this is a story about two sportsmen. In 2021, Vitaly will take Oleg to the tatami for the last time during the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. Oleg will represent Moldova and his participation aims to raise awareness of judo for visually impaired competitors in his country. And we will definitely film it.
Did you find inspiration in Oleg’s life to focus on him in your debut feature film?
AL: Oleg is the inspiration for my story, he is a magnetic person — strong, charismatic, open-minded, and cheerful. He is not disabled; he is not blind. You see a person who lives a rich, fulfilling life, and not everyone can boast of such an existence. But Oleg is not the only one who inspires me. After diving deeper, I saw Vitaly — Oleg's best friend, who spent his life’s journey with him, and they are still on that journey together. It is their friendship, Vitaly's service to another person, the courage to stay and always be close, the courage to take responsibility for another, the strength of the spirit — all this became the reason for my script. When someone behind your back is really your support. As Jorge Luis Borges once said, “there are only four stories ...”. And for me, this is one of them. This is what I rely on myself — my friends, my inner belief in a human being.
How helpful will the Eurimages Co-production Development Award be for you?
AL: I would say that this support is very important for me and I would like to thank once again the jury for the award. I have been writing this script for 2 years now, bit by bit, collecting real facts, discussing it with our characters. And it is so important to realise that this is interesting not only for myself. This award really gives me the energy to go on.
What were your expectations from Transilvania Pitch Stop and what was the online experience like? What else are you looking for now?
Anna Shalashina: We were very happy to find out that Kretsul was selected for Transilvania Pitch Stop as there couldn't be a better place to present it for the very first time. Our film is a genuine co-production that unites Moldova, Romania and Russia. We plan to shoot the film entirely in Moldova, with a Romanian and Russian crew. In addition, Alexandra is a big fan of Romanian cinema — Cristi Puiu and Cristian Mungiu are her favourite directors. We wanted to visit Romania but, unfortunately, it wasn't possible. The online format worked well for us: everything was organised really professionally, and all the presentations went well. I also have to say that the selection of projects was very strong, and it was an honour to be part of the event.
Do you have any plans for your project afterwards?
AS: Kretsul has received interest from Romanian and Moldavian producers and we were approached by colleagues after TPS. We are discussing co-production possibilities at the moment. Our characters, Oleg and Vitaly, are also waiting for us in Moldova to finalise the second draft of the script and we hope that borders will reopen in the next few months.
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