British director Peter Greenaway is to direct a film about Russia backed by a billionaire businessman and ally of President Vladimir Putin who has come under US sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
The movie with the working title "Volga" will "look at the past and future of Russia, a country on the border between Europe and Asia," a foundation headed by billionaire businessman Gennady Timchenko said in a statement Friday.
A representative of the Timchenko Foundation, Anna Kobzeva, told AFP that Greenaway is "working on the screenplay" of the film, to be produced by Frenchman Pierre-Christian Brochet, a collector of Russian art.
Timchenko has been blacklisted by the US Treasury over Russia's actions in Ukraine, but not by the European Union.
His umbrella company Volga Group and energy trading firm Gunvor are also on the US blacklist.
The US says Timchenko's activities in the energy sector "have been directly linked to Putin" and claims the Russian leader has investments and possibly direct access to his holdings.
Timchenko is reportedly also being investigated for money laundering by US authorities.
He and the Kremlin vehemently deny reports of close friendship and business ties between Putin and the tycoon, who share a love for judo and hockey.
Timchenko's foundation is supporting the film in its initial stages but the producer is currently looking for other investors, Kobzeva said.
The movie will be partly based on the 19th-century travel memoirs of French author Alexandre Dumas, the foundation said.
The prolific author of hugely popular novels including The Count of Monte Cristo is also known for his travel writing. He published a book called "Adventures in Czarist Russia, or From Paris to Astrakhan" after visiting Russia in 1858.
"It's a rather ambitious project, creating a 150-minute film showing the multi-national, multi-religious and multi-ethnic character of the Volga region," Greenaway was quoted as saying in a statement in Russian.
The film will be shot in 2016 and released in 2017, the statement said.
The director is best known for "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover" in 1989 and 1991's "Prospero's Books."
Greenaway has previously worked in Russia and his film about visionary Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein having a torrid affair with his local male guide in Mexico was screened at this year's Berlin Film Festival.
Russian Forbes magazine lists Timchenko as the country's ninth richest businessman with a fortune of $10.7 billion (9.7 billion euros).
On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov launched a tirade against Western media for recently submitting questions about the relationship between Putin and Timchenko, calling the queries "slanderous."