Andrei Konchalovsky happily admits to being a casting director’s nightmare. “I prefer not to work with professional actors,” he said in a recent video call from Moscow, “and to use, as much as possible, faces from the streets.” The Russian filmmaker has always had a thing about faces. His requirement for his latest movie, Dear Comrades!, was to find Soviet-looking faces, similar to those which adorned the Communist posters of the 1960s.
It was worth the extra effort. At the age of 83, Konchalovsky has scored possibly the biggest critical hit of his long career, which has included a stint in Hollywood directing thrillers such as Tango & Cash and Runaway Train. Dear Comrades!, available for streaming through virtual cinemas, received the Special Jury Prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival and is Russia’s entry for the upcoming Academy Awards. It explores events surrounding the 1962 massacre of 26 striking factory workers in the city of Novocherkassk, in southern Russia.