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Secrets of Siberia

Secrets of Siberia
Frank Mueller, Sir Peter Ustinov

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 01/2003

One could say that they were destined for each other: producer Jens Meurer has worked as a director and producer in the former Soviet Union since 1989 and produced Alexander Sokurov’s Russian Ark last year, while director Frank Mueller has regularly worked in St. Petersburg and Russia since 1982 and made the documentary Where the Sky Meets the Land under extreme conditions in Kirgistan. Now they have come together to make for a large format film about the world’s largest country, Russia.

“Originally, the film’s story was much closer to following the Trans-Siberian Railway” explains Egoli Tossell Film’s Marc Waechter, “but now it has been opened up to include reflections on the land and people.”

The €4.5 million production will combine two levels of narrative structure: on the one hand, the audience will witness the largest engineering masterpiece in history - the Trans-Siberian Railway. And, secondly, they will accompany an American scientist on her unforgettable journey across Russia today - from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean.

The film will open in Imperial St. Petersburg where Sir Peter Ustinov - who will guide the spectators through the film - meets the young ornithologist Christine who is about to start on a Trans-Siberian journey to a research center of the Siberian Crane Foundation in Eastern Siberia to deliver a breeding box with rare, unhatched eggs of Siberian Cranes.

“Sir Peter is very enthusiastic about the project and always brimming over with ideas, personal reminiscences and anecdotes about his family in Russia,” observes producer Jens Meurer, who had already traveled with Mueller and team to various locations last spring to shoot a trailer which was then shown at the large format conference in North America.

As its makers explain, Secrets of Siberia will address the issue of environmental care in Russia, “with the film showing a future perspective on the fascinating possibilities of this region. But, most of all, the audience will get a first-hand experience of this once-in-a-lifetime journey through a wonderful country, which for years has been regarded as an enemy and is now, once again, becoming a closer neighbor.”

Genre Educational, History
Category Docu-Fiction
Year of Production 2003
Director Frank Mueller
Screenplay Frank Mueller, Joan Scheckel
Cinematography Rodney Taylor
Cast Peter Ustinov
Producers Jens Meurer, Frank Mueller
Production Companies Egoli Tossell Film/Berlin, Cine Dok/Berlin
Format 70 mm, color
Shooting Dates St. Petersburg, Lake Baikal, Irkutsk, Amur River, Alin Mountains, East Siberia, Vladivostok, January - July 2003
Sound Technology Dolby Digital 6-Track
With backing from MFG Baden-Württemberg, Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung, Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, MEDIA Program