Russian Empire, 1919. By a twist of fate, young idealist Osip Zadunaisky meets an infamous con artist and self-proclaimed Turkish subject Ibrahim Bender. A man of pure thought and aristocratic upbringing, Osip would never have associated with a cunning and unscrupulous swindler, but Bender comes up with an offer Osip cannot refuse. A precious royal relic, a diamond-encrusted golden scepter is hidden somewhere in town; Bender needs a partner on his mission to find it, and offers Osip a share of the profit from selling the treasure.
And so begins their joint venture, wrought with comical and dangerous twists and turns, where they have to outsmart and outmaneuver officers of the White Guard as well as the local mafia, who also have their eyes on the scepter. As their quest unfolds, Osip is compelled to learn Bender’s tricks of the trade: charming flattery, delicate deception, soft intimidation… as well as brute force. Osip keeps his new endeavors secret: he is in love with a young woman of high morals and immaculate reputation, while unconvincingly resisting the charms of another woman, an exotic foreign-born vixen.
This is the story of Osip’s amazing transformation into a future legend, the “great schemer” and womanizer we know today as Ostap Bender-Zadunaisky.
The views and opinions expressed in the market screening films are those of the filmmakers and do not reflect those of the Toronto International Film Festival staff and Board of Directors.