In spite of the volatile situation in Ukraine, thanks to a crowd-funding campaign through Indiegogo earlier this year the Fifth Odessa International Film Festival is going ahead. In many ways previous years editions have suggested that though it may be much smaller than the Moscow Film Festival in terms of films and events its smaller size is no handicap to inviting some of the more interesting figures from the world of cinema to its splendid summer school. This years Summer School includes master classes from Aidan Turner, Angelina Nikhonova and Olga Dykhovychnaya, Darren Aronofsky, David Puttnam, Jean-Philippe Tesse', Stephen Frears, Vitaly Mansky and Sergei Loznitsa amongst others. There is also a national workshop working alongside this event.
While there are some overlaps with the programme of the Moscow Film Festival in terms of its programme this is there is one programme unthinkable at a Russian festival. Entitled Ways to Freedom, it presents what it calls films about "revolutions of different nations (with) one common goal: freedom, truth and dignity". It includes two films on the Maidan uprising- one Sergei Loznitsa's film shown at Cannes and another collective film entitled The Black Book of Maidan. As well as this there are two films of Russia's and Ukraine's most radical feminist groups of recent years: Alain Margot's I am Femen will be shown along with Gogol's Wives film Pussy Versus Putin on Pussy Riot. An article of mine on the latter film (comparing it to Lerner and Pozdorovkin's film on the same subject) will hopefully be published elsewhere in the not too distant future. Other films on Tahrir as well on Czechoslovakian rebels and Bucharest uprisings will complete this programme.
Oleg Sentsov's Gamer is also being given a special screening at the festival as a gesture of solidarity with the imprisoned film director. A showing of forgotten masterpieces from the history of Ukrainian cinema includes Abram Room's extraordinary banned 1935 film A Strict Young Man as well as films by Mark Donskoy, a 1927 classic Two Days by Georgiy Stabovy as well as films by lesser-known directors Artur Voytetsky and Villen Novak. The national Ukrainian competition will have seven films in competition including a self-portrait of Larissa Kadochnikova (an actress in Parajanov's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors and a daughter of Valentin Kadochnikov, an artist, animated filmmaker and one of Eisenstein's favourite students). One of the other films in competition, Oleg Sanin's The Guide will also appear in the international competition as will Nana Djordjaze's My Mermaid, My Lorelei. Other films in the international competition includes Anna Melikian's Star shown at this year's Kinotavr. Lech Majewski's fascinating Field of Dogs will also be in the international competition. In what is also becoming a tradition a film by an Italian director (this time Livorno's Paolo Virzi) is opening the festival and live music orchestra will accompany showings of Hitchcock's 1929 silent film Blackmail (at the Potemkin Stairs, the most spectacular moment of the festival) and Feuillade's 1913 film Fantomas at the Lanzheron Steps. Kira Muratova's Asthenic Syndrome will also be shown on the last night of the festival in the same location.
Once again a British film-maker gets a full retrospective - this time it is Stephen Frears's retrospective and the Festivals of Festivals programme also promises to include a few gems. Including Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Winter Sleep which won both the Palme d'Or and the prestigious FIPRESCI prize. A programme of shorts, a pitching forum and the unveiling of works in progress should give this film festival a renewed significance.