Underground metro springs a leak in hit Russian film

Updated 09 March 2013
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Underground metro springs a leak in hit Russian film

As Moscow’s legendary chandeliered underground fills with water, thousands of terrified commuters flee through flooded tunnels in a disaster movie that has topped Russia’s box office.
The film, titled simply “Metro”, depicts what might happen if Moscow’s Stalin-era underground system, which last year carried more than two billion passengers, sprung a leak from the Moscow River flowing above it and a speeding train crashed into a wall of water.
Filmed in a genuine metro system — albeit in the Volga city of Samara, not Moscow — the film looks disturbingly realistic, from the boxy blue carriages to the clunky monitoring equipment that simply loses all contact with the train. “Can you imagine what’s going on down there?” asks one petrified employee.
The film topped Russia’s box office in its first weekend, comprehensively beating action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger’s comeback movie “The Last Stand”. It has now earned $ 9.7 million, according to preliminary figures released by local magazine.
The film’s budget totaled $ 13 million, including a $ 6 million grant from a state fund designed to promote national cinema.
The real Moscow metro is rich with legend, from the giant cockroaches that allegedly roam its tunnels to secret lines said to lead from the Kremlin. Its ornate decor includes talismans such as the bronze dog at the central Revolution Square station whose nose has been rubbed bright by constant pats for luck.
Muscovites associate recent genuine horrors with the metro, including deadly bombings in 2004 and 2010 as well as a harrowing accident in 2006 in which a pile being driven into the ground for an advertising hoarding pierced through a shallow tunnel.
Well-heeled Muscovites make a point of never descending into the metro — even though that means sitting in traffic jams for hours on end.
The film plays on latent fears about the crumbling network, but the director dismissed the idea that it could upset survivors of militant bombings. “You see, if you argue like that, we couldn’t make World War II movies, we couldn’t make any films because they will always somehow touch people who had the experience,” said director Anton Megerdichev at a press conference.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, Moscow metro’s management was not keen on the film, banning the crew from filming in its stations. Undeterred, production was moved to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, only for a deadly metro bombing to strike there in April 2011 as the crew was due to start filming.
Finally they went to Samara, around 1,050 kilometers (652 miles) south of Moscow, whose little-used metro system proved only too authentic. “The most interesting thing is that it’s wet. It drips everywhere, we didn’t need to add any computer graphics. They constantly mop and wipe those stations, so basically it was perfect for us,” the director said jokingly.


Boris Becker’s diplomatic passport is ‘fake’, says Central African Republic

Former German tennis player Boris Becker. (AFP)
Updated 20 June 2018
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Boris Becker’s diplomatic passport is ‘fake’, says Central African Republic

  • Becker, responding through a German magazine, insisted that he held genuine diplomatic status
  • The document’s serial number corresponded to one of a batch of “new passports that were stolen in 2014

BANGUI: The Central African Republic (CAR) said on Tuesday that a diplomatic passport that tennis star Boris Becker claims entitles him to immunity in bankruptcy proceedings in Britain “is a fake.”
“The diplomatic passport that he has is a fake,” foreign ministry chief of staff Cherubin Mologbama told AFP.
The document’s serial number corresponded to one of a batch of “new passports that were stolen in 2014,” he said.
In addition, the passport — a copy of which has been seen by AFP, and bears the date of March 19, 2018 — does not carry the signature or the stamp of the foreign minister, Charles Armel Doubane, Mologbama said.
Becker, responding through a German magazine, insisted that he held genuine diplomatic status.
“It’s the truth. It is a fact that I am, today, a diplomat” of the CAR, he said in a filmed interview with Top Magazin Frankfurt.
On Friday, lawyers for Germany’s three-time Wimbledon champion lodged a claim in the High Court in Britain saying that he had been appointed a sports attache for the CAR to the European Union (EU) in April.
This, they argued, granted him immunity under the 1961 Vienna Diplomatic Convention on Diplomatic Relations from bankruptcy proceedings over failure to pay a long-standing debt.
“Becker’s job profile does not exist” in the CAR’s records, Mologbama said.
Furthermore, the passport says that Becker’s diplomatic function is “financial charge de mission,” a role that “has nothing to do with sporting questions,” he noted.
In April, the 50-year-old former tennis star had tweeted a picture of himself shaking hands with CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera at a meeting in Brussels.
Becker shook up the tennis world at Wimbledon in 1985 when, as an unseeded player, he became the then youngest-ever male Grand Slam champion at the age of 17, defending the trophy the following year.
The German went on to enjoy a glittering career and amassed more than $25 million (21.65 million euros) in prize money.

The CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking at the very bottom of the 188 nations in the UN Development Programme’s 2016 Human Development Index.
Landlocked, rich in gold, diamonds, oil and uranium, the country of 4.6 million people has been chronically unstable since it gained independence from France in 1960.
Presidents have traditionally been surrounded by “sleazy courtesans” and “dodgy counsellors who talk loud,” French writer Jean-Pierre Tuquoi wrote in a book published last year.
Its modern history has been studded with coups, foreign mercenaries, assassination attempts, shadowy business deals and improbable figures, he says.
They include Jean-Bedel Bokassa, a former army corporal and fan of Napoleon who became president, then president for life — and finally declared himself emperor before being ousted by France in 1979 after a massacre of school children.
One of his successors, Francois Bozize, was named in a law suit filed in France in 2015 by the CAR government, which said that during his tenure, “numerous advisers and relatives... benefitted from passports of convenience” in exchange for money.
These including a Kazakh opposition figure, Mukhtar Abiazov, a female adviser to former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and an Israeli businessman, according to the suit filed by the CAR’s attorney, William Bourdon.
Bozize was overthrown in 2013 by a mainly Muslim rebel alliance, the Seleka. His elected successor, Faustin-Archange Touadera, has effective rule over only a fraction of the country as most of it is in the hands of militias.
Poor governance and a tradition of graft make for a toxic mixture, says Thierry Vircoulon, a CAR specialist at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI).
“Given the authorities’ extreme weakness and corruptibility, crooks and conmen of every stripe always find a way to gain access to the president and make money,” he says. “This country is perfect for business pirates.”