Cinema, Russia, Sport cinema, Russian Politics
This paper examines Russian sport cinema as an important and influential component of Russian popular cinema today. Sport cinema in Russia has been a key component of the larger national project particularly associated with the regime of Vladimir Putin (himself a keen sportsman) whereby sport has been employed to promote nationalism and patriotism. This paper adopts a cultural studies approach to this subject, undertaking a textual analysis of the most commercially successful indigenous film released in Russia to date: Going Vertical (AKA Three Seconds) (2017), while examining reasons for this popularity given the context of its release and reception. Released three weeks after the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to bar the Russian team from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea and three months before the Russian Presidential election, the film is intrinsically connected with both of these events. Going Verticals subject is the very unexpected and controversial victory of the Soviet Union over the all-conquering United States in the basketball event at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. However, the films patriotism is evident not only in its focus on this victory, but also in how the production transcends through sport the divisions between members of the Soviet team. Indeed, Going Vertical speaks repeatedly and directly to the audience regarding its own Russianness, and defines this in broad and patriotic sporting terms. The film resolves division through an appeal to sport, invoking loyalty to ones teammates (and the team as a whole) to overcome ethnic differences and tensions, an appeal that shares strong parallels with Putins own policies in recent years.