Vladimir Bortko was born May 7, 1946 in Moscow. He grew up in the family of the Ukrainian Soviet playwright Aleksandr Korneychuk. After his studies in the Geological College in Kiev and his military service in 1965-1966, he worked three years as an electrical engineer in Kiev.
In 1969 he went to the Karpenko-Kary State University of Theatre, Film and Television in Kiev. After graduating in 1974 he worked as an assistant director at the Dovzhenko Film Studios. In 1975 he was directing his first film, entitled Channel.
In 1980, Vladimir Bortko became production leader in the Kinostudiya Lenfilm in Leningrad, the largest film production company of the Soviet Union after Mosfilm in Moscow. He received relative fame in the Soviet Union, but his big breakthrough he realized with the film adaptation of the novel Heart of a Dog written by the Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov. He was awarded it a Grand Prix at the Film Festival in Perugia.
In 1991 he made Afghan Breakdown, a Soviet-Italian film about the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan with Michele Placido in the lead, critical of the Soviet military activity. During the troubled shooting that started in Tajikistan in 1990 one of the team members Nikita Matrosov was killed by Tajik ultra-nationalists following the 1990 Dushanbe riots. According to Bortko, most of their equipment was destroyed as well, the team was evacuated, and the shooting was finished in Crimea and Syria.
After the turn of the century Vladimir Bortko accepted the challenge to realize two of the biggest projects ever in the history of Russian cinema for the television channel Telekanal Rossiya. The first was an adaptation of the novel The Idiot written by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky into a television series of 10 episodes in 2002. The series clinched all the major television prizes in Russia, and actor Yevgeny Mironov received the award for Best Actor at the Monte Carlo Television Festival.
Three years later followed an adaptation of the novel The Master and Margarita written by Mikhail Bulgakov, also into a TV series of 10 episodes. The first broadcast of December 19, 2005 was preceded by months of controversy in the media. Opponents feared that by the filming, the layered narrative of the novel and the complexity of the socio-political and metaphysical themes would be sacrificed to the popular demands of the medium television. Bortko had been following carefully the dialogues of the novel though, and the series became the most successful ever on Russian television. On December 25, 2005 40 million Russians were watching the seventh episode.
In 2009, Bortko caused another big controversy, followed by a huge public success, with his film adaptation of the historical novel Taras Bulba written by the Russian author Nikolai Gogol. This time the criticism came from Ukraine, because while Bortko allowed the Polish actors in the film to speak Polish, the Ukrainian Cossacks had to express themselves in poor Russian. Yet this film was also a big success, with nearly 4 million paying visitors in Russian cinemas.
Bortko is a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), and has claimed that Russia now can only "export oil, gas and prostitutes."
In March 2014 he signed a letter in support of the position of the President of Russia Vladimir Putin on Russian accession of Crimea.1974 – Doctor (thesis short film)
1975 – Channel
1984 – Without Family
1984 – The Blonde from around the Corner
1988 – Heart of a Dog
1991 – Afghan Breakdown
1998 – The Circus Burned Down, and the Clowns Have Gone
2000 – Gangsters of Saint Petersburg (TV series)
2002 – The Idiot (TV series)
2005 – The Master and Margarita (TV series)
2009 – Taras Bulba
2011 – Peter the Great: The Testament
1993 – Oedipus Rex
2010 – Malleus Maleficarum