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Friday, 20 June 2014

Ongoing Account of 36th Moscow International Film Festival (1)

In these and following posts I'll try to give some ongoing impressions and reflections on the daily events of the Moscow Film Festival, giving some more detail to the first post and also I aim to talk about some of the other events of the Festival.  

One of the main other events of the Film Festival is the Moscow Business Square (which is in its sixth edition) Apart from the traditional focus of the CIS countries and Georgia this year its focus is on the film indusries of Latin America and the UK. As well as an attempt to construct film industry links and foster coproduction between the film industry it is an excellent chance to learn of new film projects in the pipeline. The Latin America section is by far the larger part of the programme and it appears (from the events on at this years Moscow Business Square as though there is a boom in Russian-related themes in that continent being proposed for co-production projects. I hope to be able to write in more detail on some of these projects later.

One of the most exciting news for Russian film buffs linked to this event is the news about a new projected Andrey Khrzhanovsky film based on both Gogol's as well as Shostakovich's Nose and to be entitled The Nose, or the Outside Conspiracy. It promises to follow in the footsteps of the polystylism of Khrzhanovsky's previous film mixing animation, documentary scenes, chronicle footage and acted scenes. Also the producer of the Mexican film Amores Perros is coming to Moscow personally to present a new film project on the murder of Leon Trostky. Other projects are a film on Rudolf Nureyev based on the years before he left Russia and a film project about Dovzhenko in Odessa (surely a fascinating prospect for film purists). Other films from post-Soviet countries are also in the line up. And Louis Beaudemont's film Soviet Groove exploring the Soviet music scene looks like it could be a possible successor to Electro Moskva in the rediscovery of aspects of Soviet life little known about elsewhere in the fog of the old cold war. The programme of talks and events can be found here.

What about the events and the atmosphere so far?

Well, the atmosphere is mixed. There are reports of some international filmmakers staying away from the festival because of the situation in Ukraine - although how many it is hard to say. But it is a fact that neither the Programme Director, Kirill Razlogov nor the overall director Nikita Mikhalkov have denied (the number of 700 reported in the article seems a rather wild exaggeration though). That not a single foreign journalist appeared at Mikhalkov's press conference only seemed to give Mikhalkov one more occasion for rallying the many conservative-minded journalists who flock to this festival and can be heard muttering their disapproval at any film which shows innovation and surprise.

However, there are still so many reasons for being here. Yesterday gave two indications of why a visit to the festival was not in vain. In the morning the one Ukrainian film in the main competition Brothers: A Final Confession by the young director Victoria Trofimenko had its press showing. A strong Ukrainian film which drew some comparisons to a Wajda film and Rogozhkin's Кукушка (The Cuckoo) as well as a hope that the heights of the great season of Ukrainian Poetic Cinema of the 1960s and 1970s are reachable once more. The film, based on a novel by the Scandinavian writer Torgny Lindgren , is a work that has taken five years to complete. And yet so many agreed at the Press conference that it seemed to be one of the most powerful commentaries on the present situation between Russian and Ukraine. Of course, a press conference of a Ukrainian film at Moscow is a complicated affair. Most of the questions fortunately were asked in an intelligent way. Though it didn't quite go all smoothly after one questioner asked 'Why do you all hate us Russians in Ukraine?'. Nonetheless, a sizeable congregation applauded the director's heartfelt reply and her refusal to be drawn in by such an ignorant question as well as Razlogov's reprimand to the questioner that we were here to talk about the film and not the present situation.

The evening presented festival goers with one of the most delightfully demential pleasures so far. Sergio Caballero's La Distancia. It seems to have all the madness of a Cine Fantom film laced with a strong dose of David Lynch. An absurdist, madcap tour de force. It was shown in the framework of the Russian Trace programme- the same one that gave us last year's El Efecto K- El Montador de Stalin / The K Effect- Stalin's Editor by Valenti Figueres. Spanish reimaginings of Russia are surely a worthy topic to write about. The Russian public at yesterday's film were divided between those bewildered (and seemed regularly to leave the hall) and those who could hardly repress their sense of hilarity at the film. In many ways it would have been a very worthy addition to the Cine Fantom programme which will begin later today with the Return od De Bile and the first half of a Evgeny Kondratiev retrospective.

A press showing of the excellent Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako (one of the great contemporary film directors of Sub Saharan African) as part of Andrey Plakhov's Divine Euphoria programme was also an unmissable experience.

Today's events have barely got underway. A press conference here and there and the presentation of the Documentary competition which will be headed by one of Britain's most well-known  documentary filmmakers Sean McCallister. Tomorrow morning he will be giving a master class at the Centre of Documentary Cinema.

Of all the press coverage (and I'll try to summarise some of the main Russian film critics top recommendations) there is a historical piece in today's Kommersant newspaper which really should not be missed. It tells of Naum Kleiman's recollections of how Fellini's 8 1/2 ended up winning the main award at the 1963 Moscow Film Festival. A fascinating tale and which can be read here (in Russian).

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