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How ‘Putin’ Will Test Audience Appetite for AI

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Putin, a new political biopic being shopped to international distributors at next week’s Cannes film market, could test the waters for how much AI the film industry, and the audience, is prepared to accept.

The drama from Polish director Besaleel, also known as Patryk Vega, recreates Russian leader Vladimir Putin using artificial intelligence that was developed in-house with his own technology company AIO, creating what the director terms the “first deepfake” feature film.

German group Kinostar is handling world sales for Putin and will be shopping it to international distributors at the upcoming Cannes film market. Kinostar began sales on the film at the AFM last year and will release the film itself in several European territories.

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Putin ©Besaleel

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, Besaleel said he shot scenes of the Russian leader using a Polish actor with a similar build and used AI technology to “overlay Putin’s face on the actor, creating a realistic effect in the highest resolution,” something he says would be impossible to do with traditional make-up or prosthetics.

Besaleel, who made his name with slick, violent (and hugely successful) Polish gangster movies including Pitbull and Mafia Women, is making his English-language debut with Putin. The film is billed as a political thriller and psychological portrait of the Russian president viewing Putin’s life story as the rise of the ultimate gangster. (The film’s original title was The Vor in Law, a term used for elite organized crime figures).

The film recreates several real-life events, including the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis, the carpet bombing of Chechnya under Putin’s watch, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, incorporating footage shot by Ukrainian filmmakers during the invasion.

But the primary focus of the film is Putin himself, or rather Besaleel’s AI version of him, and it’s not a pretty picture. In the trailer for the film, the director shows Putin shivering in soiled diapers, humiliating his ex-wife Lyudmila Aleksandrovna Ocheretnaya by flaunting his affair with his much younger girlfriend, Alina Kabaeva, as well as cold-heartedly ordering bombings and political assassinations.

Besaleel first announced the film in May 2022, in the wake of Russia‘s invasion of Ukraine, but he said it took more than two years to develop and train the AI needed to recreate Putin’s likeness on screen. The real test of the tech will come on Sept. 26, when Putin begins its theatrical rollout in Eastern Europe.

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Hollywood Reporter Original Article

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