Prolific filmmaker, screenwriter, and producer Aleksey Balabanov was born in 1959 in the provincial city of Sverdlovsk, now Yekaterinburg. An outsider in comparison with the film elite based in Moscow and St Petersburg, his early features positioned him as a key figure in Russian experimental and absurdist cinema, with Happy Days (1991) and The Castle (1994) based on the works of Samuel Beckett and Franz Kafka respectively. Yet it was Balabanov’s gangland thrillers and military dramas that brought the director global recognition. It is precisely this rich and varied oeuvre, alongside an unflinching authorial gaze that helped to define new ideas of Russian nationhood in the post-Soviet era, that has cemented Balabanov’s legacy in Russian cinema. While his career was not without its controversies, most notably criticised for his employment of racist, xenophobic, and nationalistic tropes, his premature death in 2013 has undoubtedly left a gap in the filmmaking landscape of contemporary Russia.