Cinema In HSE: OPIA And "Hey, Cinematograph"

Interview with OPIA's coordinator Sergei Alumov about the documentary club and his own cult classics side project.

Cinema In HSE: OPIA And "Hey, Cinematograph"

There are dozens of student organizations in HSE and among them there are cinema clubs where you can not only watch a movie but also discuss it with other students and even people who are directly involved in its production. Today, HSE Illuminated talked to Sergei Alumov, who is a special projects coordinator at the documentary cinema club OPIA and founder of “Hey, cinematograph” cult classics club.

Hey, Sergei, I am very pleased to be here! Please, tell me about “OPIA” project. What is yet to be done?

The documentary cinema club OPIA was created in April of 2017 on behalf of Yuriy Arkadievich Burtsev, who is a professor of the Faculty of Communications, Media and Design, and one of the pioneers in the development of commercial television broadcasting in Russia. The original intention was to organize screenings of documentary films, which are not available online, where the audience would have an opportunity to discuss these flicks directly with their creators. All in all, due to great ties to the Russian cinema community Yuriy Arkadievich makes arrangements for films and special guests, while the team of OPIA organizes screenings and anything else.

We never got to make videos with the guests of the club. But I really hope that this year we’ll make it with the help of freshmen. I think I finally understand how to motivate these hacks. (Laughs)  

What does the usual OPIA screening routine consist of? Is there a huge difference between the organization of internal university screenings, special screening events and cinema festival?

The usual OPIA screening takes as follows. First of all, as we usually have screening in the HSE buildings, a couple of hours before the screening, Dasha, who is in charge of screenings organizing, checks with university security whether everything is alright with guests’ list. Simultaneously, our producer Katya reaches out to the event’s speaker to verify that she or he is coming. She’s also responsible for meeting with this person and bringing to the venue. Shortly before the screening a couple of OPIA members takes a position at the entrance of the building to meet guests and resolve any emerging issues. By good old-fashioned Moscow tradition, we start our screening with a slight delay. After the screening, the discussion immediately begins with a special guest and lasts around 1 hour. Formerly it was Yuriy Arkadievich who moderated the discussion but in the present time, it’s usually one of the OPIA members. Furthermore, during both film and discussion, somebody from OPIA takes pictures.  

There is not too much difference with special screenings as the main difference is the number of people and this is something we are used to. And not to brag but we usually have quite a lot of guests in comparison with other HSE cinema clubs. Sometimes too many people come and there is not enough place for everybody, we, of course, apologize for the inconvenience but people usually understand as we can’t introduce a fee for tickets.

Something kind of funny happened the other day on the special screening. We had already arranged to show a certain movie but when the director came he asked us to show another one, yet unreleased film as he really wanted to have feedback from the student audience. The thing is we had to keep the film’s title in secret and prohibit taking photos and recording video or audio.

As for the organization of the festivals, on our situation, i.e. being a student organization, we have to accept that we don’t have a sustainable budget and we can’t sell any merchandise to cover any serious external costs. But as people say what student really needs is spiritual food, so it’s alright.

Moreover, to hold a festival means a lot of communication with a lot of different people, a lot of ideas and convincing people that these ideas are worthwhile for them to participate in one way or another. The whole process of negotiations reminds me of an old anecdote about persuading a lad from a Siberian village to marry Rockefeller’s daughter. 

How does one become a member of OPIA? Have you ever encountered exchange students at OPIA events?

In the current year, it was necessary to fill out the entry form online. Now we’re going to give a variety of tasks to our new volunteers to see who’s adequate and capable of doing different things. Those, who will show themselves to be great, will take seats in our so-called club council. To be OPIA club member means to do things within our brand, the club is not limited to cinema screenings only.

The exchange students have participated in our events but I don’t know what else to add about them. I hope we’ll see a lot more of them in the future.

What does the future hold for OPIA? Will you please tell about your upcoming events.

We’re preparing a small party with techno, industrial and EDM on 26 October in Garage Ellina. It’s going to be really cool and weird, our colleague from HSE Art and Design school right now is working on a special video art.

On 27 October in collaboration with Meduza, we’re going to have the screening of two Sergey Erzhenkov’s films in the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center. The first movie is going to be about Ivan Golunov’s scandal, the second one is going to be about the tour manager of Russian punk band Pornofilmi. To be honest, we’re really worried about the second one as it’s still in editing and we’re not sure he’ll finish in time for screening.

“Hey, cinematograph”, another project of yours in HSE, is a whole other story. What is it all about?

My friends Fedya, Anton and I came to the conclusion that we are tired of watching cult movies on the laptop screen. So, long story, we created a student organization for that purpose. 

Apart from having a great time, what can one gain from watching cult classics?

Basically, there are no good or bad movies. If the movie is award-winning, it doesn’t mean that it’s brilliant or even worth watching. And vice-versa. People are very different and everyone has their own guilty pleasure.

Tell me please about “Hey, cinematograph” upcoming events.

In November we’re going to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail one more time. I hope that for some people it would be their first screening, so we would witness their reactions and of course: it isn’t every day you watch Monty Python for the first time! 

Text by 
Rostislav Miretskiy