“Do you have dreams of becoming a landlord in UFA?” asks a voiceover in an animated film directed by Alexander Sokurov. In the film, you are shown a series of dream sequences that re-create the unique cultural experience of renting an apartment in Moscow. “Rising above all odds, the film takes you on a journey to a city steeped in history, mystery, and adventure,” the narrator intones as the film cuts to a wide shot of a high-rise office building in the city’s center. As a sign of the film’s theme, one of the shots cuts to a figure silhouetted against a blue sky, apparently on his way to work, accompanied by a series of ominous tones and sounds.
“The film shows the UFA as a place where dreams are reality is fantasy. We are not here,” says a voiceover as a tall, heavily built man in a suit prepares to sign a one-year rental contract with a local agency. Then the voice cuts to a shot of the man in full uniform, brandishing a pen and a notepad as he negotiates with a heavyset Russian agent. “Do you have dreams of being a landlord in UFA?”
This funny film was recently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Screenplay and received mixed reviews. Many critics praised its realistic depiction of working life in a country famous for such absurd enterprises as hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Others described it as an exaggerated soap opera. Perhaps due to the film’s commercial success, RTL TV, a state-owned Russian television network, decided to rent out some of its studios for a week’s worth of Saturday Night Live entertainment, which resulted in a reported crowd of 30,000 viewers.
The comedy was created by the same people who brought us “The Ring”, a travel comedy which was banned in Russia after it showed a Jew at the wrong airport! Olegantly interspersed with archival footage of Russian customs officials ordering coffee and cigarettes from a cafe, the film offers a look into the everyday challenges that landlords and employees face when living in UFA. RTL TV has since replaced its original one-week-old contract with the city with a new one that runs for the entire month of October. The qo features a series of short skits, interspersed with segments featuring ordinary citizens telling ghost stories and discussing various current events.
When interviewed, several residents told reporters they were fed up with staying awake for long periods to pay the rents. “I used to wake up at three in the morning and watch all my neighbors get up. I used to listen to my parents screaming because there was nothing I could do for them. I used to see my friends in parks but no one gave me any coins to play with.” commented one resident on social networking site Vkontakte.
RTL TV presenter Dmitry Zverev recently filmed a segment for his show in which he discussed how he got UFA status. Zverev became a celebrity overnight as a result of his success in registering with the UFA. The unrestricted free agent rule allows Zverev to sign a three-year contract with the club that expires during the next season of play. A restricted free agent is not allowed to sign a multi-year contract.
One player on Zverev’s Vkontakte list that will definitely benefit from being an unrestricted free agent is Kazakh striker Mukhtarbayev. The 29-year-old played just one game for SKA Stuttgart last season and has been rumoured to have approached FC Barcelona about a move to Spain. Despite having a one-year contract, Mkhitaryavyov hasn’t been signed one-year deal and instead is only in talks with the German club. This may be down to the fact that Mkhitaryavyov failed to register with UFA.
With FC Barcelona is looking for a replacement for David Beckham, it would make sense for Mkhitaryavyov to go to the Nou camp and ask for a transfer. However, if Mkhitaryavyov does sign a one-year deal with SKA Stuttgart, he’ll remain ineligible to play for Spain until the season is over. It would therefore be highly unlikely that he’ll be offered a transfer to Spain straight away but expect UFA to offer him a lucrative contract for the remainder of this season and beyond.