EXCLUSIVE: Paris-based genre specialist Reel Suspects has acquired world sales for Victor Ginzburg’s Russia-set, sci-fi horror film Empire V ahead of its world premiere in Montreal’s Fantasia Fest in July.

Based on the 2006 satirical novel by Victor Pelevin, the feature unfolds in contemporary Russia ruled by a vampire elite.

Russian rapper Oxxymiron, whose anti-war stance led to him being declared a “foreign agent”, features in the cast alongside Pavel Tabakov, Taya Radchenko, Miron Fedorov and Vera Alentova. Tabakov plays a 19-year-old Moscow nobody who is turned into a vampire, propelling him into an elite and powerful echelon of society that has controlled humanity since time immemorial.

The film is produced by America’s Heartland Films and Russia Kvadrat Film Company and Andrey Trubitsyn, Maria Kapralova, Alexei Tylevich and James Steele.

“For me, Empire V was an opportunity to experiment in the vampire genre but within a uniquely challenging narrative structure: telling a post-modern Moscow love story against the backdrop of a ruthless satire of modern civilization while retaining Pelevin’s brutal eye for the ironies of Russian society,” said Ginzburg.

Sony had been due to release the film in Russia on more than 1,800 screens in the first quarter of 2022, but the government refused to release its distribution permit, effectively banning the film.

“For the first time in my life, when I was confronted with the ugly specter of state censorship, it was a heartbreaking feeling for me and for all the people who put years of work and love into this film. The same goes for literally millions of Russian fans that have been waiting for the release, many of whom helped crowdfund this truly independent film.”

Reel Suspects founding president Matteo Lovadina said: “We are proud that Fantasia has chosen to honor this banned film by screening it in their festival. This film will continue to attract both buyers and festival programmers for its powerful and controversial message.”