Sunday, July 21, 2024

Exclusive: Mitt Romney Secured Visas for Russian Documentary Filmmakers Who Scale Skyscrapers Against the Law


Alec Baldwin looked confident and calm last night hosting a screening of the “Skywalkers” documentary set hit IMAX next Friday and Netflix a week later.

The East Hampton screening was the first at the newly renovated Guild Hall, one of the great venues on the east coast. Baldwin is on his way this weekend to Santa Fe, New Mexico for a ridiculous 10 day trial to determine his culpability in the death of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Nevertheless, the famed actor — who many think is being scapegoated by the Santa Fe DA’s office — introduced “Skywalkers” and then returned to moderate the Q&A with producers Maria Bukhonia (also a co-director) and Tamir Ardon.

“Skywalkers” — a likely Oscar nominee — tells the incredible cinema verite story of young Russian couple Angela Nikolau and Ivan “Vanya” Beerkus, who became social media sensations for scaling skyscrapers and filming their astonishing achievements. They are basically in trouble all over the world for breaking laws to accomplish their mission.

The one place the couple has not done any rooftopping — the United States, New York in particular. Former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, who was in the audience, laughed when I asked him if these daredevil artists could get away with this in New York.

“I don’t think so,” he chortled, with a dead serious expression.

On stage, Bukhonia revealed that it wasn’t so easy to get the couple — who are camera ready movie stars — into the United States this winter for a premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

“I probably shouldn’t say, but Mitt Romney got them their visas.” Romney is the US Senator from Utah, the state where Sundance is held. And he serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, so it all makes sense.

Was that difficult, Baldwin asked? Ardon replied: “Russian artists who are always in trouble with the law? Nah!”

You can watch “Skywalkers” on a TV or computer, but seeing it on a screen — particularly IMAX — is the way to go. Fans of the mountain climbing movie “Free Solo” will be thrilled and frightened as Ivan and Angela fall in love as they sneak to the top of various urban pinnacles, dangling over the side, cheating death and evading the law.

Eventually the couple — mind you, they do this barefoot in socks, with no parachutes or nets — decide to conquer Kuala Lampur’s megascraper, Merdeka Tower, before it’s finished being built. They choose the final night of the World Cup in December 2022 — France vs Argentina –knowing everyone including the security guards will be glued to screens.

What ensues is better than a “Mission Impossible” movie, and you can only imagine that when Tom Cruise sees what they pull off he’ll want to try it himself. Directors Bukhonina and Jeff Zimbalist build the tension of the couple hiding in the steeple for nearly 24 hours and then scoring their most impressive rooftopping ever.

There’s a lot going on here. The producers told us not only did they hire some aerial photographers, but Beerkus is a sophisticated drone filmmaker. He would carry a drone to the tops of these 100 story buildings, then launch the drone and film the couple’s adventures!

Hopefully, Mitt Romney can bring them back for awards season this fall and winter (unless Putin catches wind of this whole thing).

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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