Sochi goes back to its ‘Roots’

Russian fest focuses on local fare

MOSCOW — Top honors at Russia’s Kinotavr Sochi fest went to Pavel Lungin’s ironic Jewish-themed comedy “Roots” — a cosmopolitan pic that underscores the aim of the fest’s new management to highlight the best in contemporary Russian cinema.

“Roots,” a Franco-Russian co-production, picked up prizes for scripter Gennady Ostrovsky, actress for Esther Gorinthin (split with child thesp Ira Shipova from Larisa Sadilova’s “Babysitter Required”) and actor for Konstantin Khabensky (split with Nikita Mikhalkov for Filipp Yankovsky’s costumer “The State Counselor”).

Lungin, feted over the last decade at Cannes for “Taxi Blues” and “The Wedding,” also took Kinotavr’s main prize, as well as a special award from the Krasnodar region, where the Black Sea fest is set.

Sunday’s closing ceremony, presented by two second-generation talents Anna Mikhalkova and Fedor Bondarchuk, saw debut award go to Alexei Fedorchenbko’s “First on the Moon,” a mockumentary on the Soviet space industry, which also picked up the critics’ prize.

Kinotavr’s special prize went to Rotterdam prize-winner Ilya Khrzhanovsky for his radical and bleak “4.”

The fest’s 16th edition did away with international competition programs, concentrating instead on its role as a national festival reflecting the local market. It aims to make pics accessible to international buyers, such as France’s Celluloid Dreams, fest programmers and critics. Intensive round-table discussions also reflected the new direction.

“We promise that Kinotavr will … promote Russian film both at home and abroad,” said Alexander Rodnyansky, himself a docu director and TV manager who has headed the event’s change of direction along with producer Igor Tolstunov.

Emphasis was on exports, which Rodnyansky will expand in the future, hoping for as many as 150 foreign attendees in 2006 against 40 this year.

He’s honest about shortcomings in the location, from projection problems through to lack of subtitled prints and logistic difficulties in bringing foreign guests through Moscow to Sochi.

Stronger emphasis on a supporting shorts comp also brought results for local players in an environment where producers are more than eager to find future directing talent.

According to critic Daniil Dondurei, Russia needs around 300 helmers just to keep up with projected film and TV serial production — and the only source will be new names.

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