English-language pics do well in St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia –Passion for arthouse cinema ran as high as ever at St. Petersburg’s eighth Festival of Festivals, which ran in Russia’s northern capital June 23-30. The main difference this year was that more of the fest’s prize-winning pics had already been acquired by local distribs than ever before.

The event’s special program prize was presented to newly established distribution outfit Central Partnership, which works in close conjunction with France’s Canal Plus.

Launched this year, Central Partnership has brought a new element of competition into Russia’s arthouse scene. Distrib will release Nagisa Oshima’s Cannes-acclaimed “Gohatto,” which took the Fest of Fest’s top Gold Griffin prize.

French helmer Francois Ozon attended a retrospective of his works on the way to Moscow for the commercial release of three of his pics, including his most recent film “Water Drops on Burning Rocks.” The three are being presented by local outfit Carmen.

English in evidence

English-language fare was also repped more strongly than usual in the fest’s main program, with the Viewers’ Prize going to Jasmin Dizdar’s cross-culture pic “Beautiful People,” and a special best debut prize, named after fest founder Nikolai Ovsyannikov, awarded to Tim Roth’s “The War Zone.”

Festival, which unspooled 120 pics at six local venues, is a mainstay the city’s cultural life.

While a Fipresci conference pondered St. Petersburg’s film heritage, other critical highlights were retrospectives dedicated to two local masters, Alexander Arnstam and Ilya Averbach, as well as a strong Scandinavian element: a program of Finnish Cinema of the ’90s, as well as one consisting of films based on the work of Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun.

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