The DAU Project: History of One of Russia’s Biggest and Most Controversial Film Production

Conference: The European Conference on Media, Communication & Film (EuroMedia2022)
Title: The DAU Project: History of One of Russia’s Biggest and Most Controversial Film Production
Stream: Film History
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Sergei Glotov, Tampere University, Finland


The DAU project was a unique and colossal film experiment that lasted for several years and employed hundreds of people. Back in 2005 it was conceived as a conventional biopic of Soviet scientist Lev Landau, however, quite soon the idea transformed dramatically. After the production settled in Kharkiv, Ukraine, the director Ilya Khrzhanovsky constructed a gigantic set - The Institute, a dynamic historical reconstruction of a Soviet-era science centre. The Institute was populated by hundreds of untrained extras, who would improvise the majority of their lines and actions. A single camera operated by renowned German cinematographer Jürgen Jürges followed them around. The Institute had functioned for three years, during which 700 hours of footage were filmed. During those years, information began to circulate in Russian media about horrific conditions on the set, continuous abuse from the director and the disastrous impact the production had on the city. Despite strong non-disclosure agreements, more information continued to be shared, especially once Khrzhanovsky was finally set to premiere his films in Paris in 2019, and then at the Berlin Film Festival in 2020. This research explores available information on the production of DAU and constructs a historical narrative that begins in 2005 and ends in current times. The research data is a collection of online materials published in different languages (Russian, Ukrainian, English, French, German). The research describes controversies that followed production and release of DAU, as well as brings up responses from the director and his cast and crew.

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