Monday, 17 June 2013
Russian Summer Film Festivals: Programme highlights of the 35th Moscow International Film Festival.
Festival season in Russia and former Soviet satellite countries has most definitely begun. After the Kinotavr festival in Sochi (the major showcase of national cinema) came the Zerkalo (Mirror) Tarkovsky festival in the Ivanovo region. A festival dedicated to the name and legacy of one of Russia's greatest ever film directors this year on its seventh festival it was possible to celebrate the return of the Tarkovsky archive to the region of Tarkovsky's birth. Films dedicated to Tarkovsky, film directors influenced by Tarkovsky as well as a whole host of other events have begun slowly to build up the reputation of this film festival. It may well serve as an example to others. There has been some talk of an Elem Klimov festival in Volgograd and one can only hope that this idea gets off the ground as it will surely recover the reputation and demonstrate the versatility of another truly great Soviet film director. Too little is known of Klimov in the west outside of his last film Иди и Смотри (Come and See), and even in Russia his reputation is mainly built on this last film alongside his first film Добро пожаловать, или Посторонним вход воспрещён (Welcome, or No Trespassing). The time surely has come to try and build these festival-bridges between the giants of the past and contemporary film.
The most established film festival- the Moscow International Film Festival- begins this Thursday. It is by far the largest festival and remains in terms of classification at least the major festival. Whether its reputation as a festival showcase for international brilliance can be salvaged is in doubt for. Although the return of Andrei Plakhov to the festival team can only be a good sign. He has offered a very sincere and objective account of the festival in an interview published today in Novaya Gazeta with its correspondent Larisa Maliukova. He admits that the main international festival for Eastern European film is Karlovy Vary (it managed to build up its reputation at a time when Moscow slowly lost its role and direction).
Nonetheless, Moscow really does manage to make up for in eclecticism what it all too often lacks in its competition programme. And this year there are some promising signs. A very strong Portuguese and Dutch section of films should have much to offer as should a Prague Spring dedicated to the memory of Galina Kopaneva, a bilingual Czech and Russian film critic who died late last year. Both Costa Gravas and Bernardo Bertolucci are being honoured with retrospectives as is the Franco-Swiss director Ursula Meier. The death of Alexei Balabanov a month ago meant that failing to honour his memory could only have been seen as an affront after the disattention that many large festivals such as Cannes showed him.
Russian cinema is not central to this festival but nonetheless three Russian films are in the competition programme. Konstantin Lopushanky's film РОЛЬ (The Role). Lopushansky like Sokurov was close in some ways to Tarkovsky (working with him on Stalker). Yet for some reason Sokurov has travelled while Lopushansky has not. Yet Lopushansky is surely deserving of a more international reputation than he has hitherto gained. Not having made a full-length feature work since his 2006 Strugatsky adaptation Гадкие лебеди (The Ugly Swans), his new film surely deserves attention. Anton Rozenberg, a newcomer to Russian cinema, has his СКОЛЬЖЕНИЕ (Slide) entered into the main competition. A film that received no state finance one can only await this thriller with curiosity. Andrey Bogatyryov has adpated Leonid Andreev's tale of Judas Iscariot to the screen. Whether his ИУДА (Judas) will go beyond last years finely made and scripted but none too radical Орда (The Horde) directed by Andrei Proshkin and scripted by Yuri Arabov remains to be seen. Nonetheless, the religious theme seems to be a constant in recent years.
Cine Fantom also has a section of its own and will be showing a retrospective of films in which the recently deceased artist Vladimir Mamyshev-Monroe was involved. Cine Fantom's large programme seems to show that underground cinema is still far from dead in Russia. Whether it will have new surprises in store remains to be seen. One of the documentary films in competition is Mumin Shakirov's ХОЛОКОСТ- КЛЕЙ ДЛЯ ОБОЕВ? (Holocaust: It’s Wallpaper Paste?) about two sisters who gained fame (or rather notoriety) for their answer in a rather primitive quiz show. The film is the story of the journalists decision to take them on a trip to Auschwitz.
Russian entries in other programmes seem to be rather thin on the ground. Although there is a section dedicated to films about the great ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. The Moscow Business Square is the large business platform where co-production forums will be visited by hundreds of producers. The emphasis this year is on a number of countries from South Korea, China as well as having a day dedicated to documentary film.