Leading Russian outfit Metrafilms is getting back into the documentary groove with an espionage thriller as embroiled and complex as anything found in dramatised spy movies.
British director Nikolai Galitzine’s Prophet Of Doom: Vanishing of Vladimir Alexandrov tells the story of leading Soviet climatologist, Vladimir Aleksandrov, who disappeared during a trip to Spain. The Soviet authorities initially thought the scientist was trying to defect but no sign of him was ever found after he vanished in Madrid on 31st March 1985.
Earlier this month, the company presented Prophet Of Doom at the Key Buyers’ Event organised by Roskino. The new film, being made as a three-part series, is co-produced by Andrew Revkin, the renowned American journalist whose famous 1986 Science Digest article titled ‘Missing: The Curious Case Of Vladimir Alexandrov’, explored the Alexandrov case. In the article, Revkin describes Alexandrov as “a youthful, jet-setting luminary of Soviet science, a man who in more than eight trips to the United States had more hands-on contact with American high technology than any of his compatriots.” On board as co-producers are NUR (Poland) and Advantage (UK).
Alexandrov, Revkin notes, “had the unique distinction of being the first, and perhaps the last, Soviet scientist to extensively use American super-computers…Alexandrov was also valuable to the Soviet Union as its chief spokesperson on the horrors of nuclear winter, the catastrophic effect of nuclear war on the atmosphere.”
The new documentary has as its Scientific Advisor the historian Dr. Giulia Rispoli from the Max Planck Institute in Berlin. She is a founding member of the International Commission on Science, Technology and Diplomacy. During recent research, Rispoli has also explored the Alexandrov case in depth.
The film promises finally to solve the mystery of the missing Soviet scientist. “The key players in this story are now the leaders in the debate over climate change…and denial. By searching for a motive to Vladimir’s fate, I am already learning unpleasant truths about how the scientific community and the political community co-exist,” director Galitzine commented in his pitch/proposal to the key buyers’ event.
Metrafilms boss Artem Vasilyev acknowledges he had never heard of Alexandrov when director Galitzine first told him the story of the disappearance.
Vasilyev tells how, in his preparation for the documentary, Galitzine had made contact with multiple sources on both Russian and western sides. “He (Galitzine) called us one day and said, ‘listen guys, I really want to meet all these people and have a dinner with all of them. It doesn’t really matter which side they were on 30 years ago because now they are part of my investigation and will be part of the film’,” says Vasilyev of the director’s plans to bring all the principal players in the story “together at one table.” During meals together, Galitzine reckoned, subjects tend to relax and to be friendly and open.
Prophet Of Doom is part of a slate of author-driven series that Metrafilms is developing for digital platforms in Russia and beyond. It is being put together as a co-production. Metrafilms is one of the leading indie production houses in Russia. Its recent credits include Aleksey German Jr’s Dovlatov, Michael Idov’s The Humorist and Aleksey Fedorchenko’s The Keys Of Happiness.
While the company generally specialises in fiction, it has made documentaries in the past. This, though, is set to be the company’s first big international doc.