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Scene from “The Other Chelsea” (photo courtesy of Kloos & Co. Medien)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 01/2009

Production is now beginning on Jakob Preuss' The Other Chelsea (working title) which is described as “a serious and humorous study on post-Soviet reality” through a portrait of Eastern Ukraine beyond the Orange Revolution.

“I met Jakob some years ago through a common friend Sebastian Heinzel with whom I had made the documentary 89 Millimetres,” producer Stefan Kloos recalls about the genesis of their collaboration on The Other Chelsea.

A self-taught filmmaker, Preuss did his civilian service in Russia and has regularly worked as an election observer for international organizations, notably in the former Soviet Union, as well as making films.

After the young filmmaker received a grant in 2007 from the Robert Bosch Foundation to do research in the field, Kloos and Preuss then presented the project at Docs Barcelona and Amsterdam's IDFA Forum last year. The film was supported by the MEDIA Program as part of a slate development funding application by Kloos & Co. Medien and has also received backing from the prestigious Sundance Institute Documentary Program as well as attracting ZDF's Das kleine Fernsehspiel unit as co-producer.

“The film presents us with a view of Ukrainian reality that is not so familiar to us,” Kloos explains. “The country is emotionally and politically divided into East (the “blue” party) and the West (the “orange” party). We all know about the revolution although it is known from the other – blue – side as the 'Orange Putsch'. When we see this blue side and look behind the scenes, we can then understand how fragile this post-Soviet construction is.”

“Just like Georgia,” Preuss adds, “Ukraine experiences serious internal tensions. Not everyone who lived in the former Soviet Union dreamed of becoming an American, joining NATO or living according to Western values. They want Russian as a regional language and fear a forced Ukrainization.”

“If there was a ‘Cold War II’ taking place, the Donbass region just like Crimea would be on the frontline,” Preuss continues. “The Other Chelsea also deals with parallel social worlds, with the losers and winners of the Soviet Union's collapse. These worlds are united by three things: a strong local patriotism, a love for the local football club, and the conviction that they belong with Russia rather than the West. This is just as true for Alexei and Kolya, veteran coal-miners, as it is for Nikolai Levtshenko, an ambitious young oligarch and politician.”

“The football reference of our working title draws a comparison between London's Chelsea, owned by oligarch Roman Abramovitch, and Rinat Achmetov, owner of the Shakhtar Donetsk club. Achmetov is the richest man of the Ukraine, a native of the Donbass, both an important economic and political figure,” Kloos observes. “It is taken for granted to have this connection between the economic and political – people just cannot imagine that it will ever be different and are resigned to it.”

The film will follow the contrasting protagonists over the course of a football season, through the ups and downs on and off the pitch, with the stadium serving to link their stories together. While Levtshenko – who is the Secretary of the Donetsk City Council with bigger political ambitions – slides into the VIP box, Alexei and Kolya take up the same places they’ve held for decades... row 16, seats 8 and 9. Most of the shooting will take place away from the stadium, following Alexei and Kolya in the run-down coal mine where they work, and the young oligarch with his flashy cars, parties and political events.

Moreover, The Other Chelsea will focus on the inner conflicts of post-Soviet society through the interweaving of very personal and human stories. “Alexei and Kolya embody the amiability and the humanity which I have encountered all over the former Soviet Union, and which succeed in making life worth living despite all the difficulties and misery,” Preuss says. “They have a very peculiar humor unique to Russian speakers. As their friend Volodya says, laughing: 'If something is forbidden in Europe, nobody does it. Here, you just try, perhaps it will work in the end...!'.”

Genre Society
Category Documentary
Year of Production 2009
Director Jakob Preuss
Cinematography Eugen Schlegel
Markus Schmidt
Producer Stefan Kloos
Production Company Kloos & Co. Medien/Berlin, in co-production with ZDF Das kleine Fernsehspiel
Length 88 min
Format color
Original Version
Shooting Dates Donetsk (Ukraine), February - September 2009
Sound Technology Stereo
Festivals Transilvania IFF Cluj 2012
With backing from Robert Bosch Foundation, MEDIA, Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program

Kloos & Co. Medien GmbH
Stefan Kloos
Schlesische Strasse 29-30
10997 Berlin/Germany
phone +49-30-4 73 72 98 10
fax +49-30-4 73 72 98 20