‘Promise’ kept at Moscow fest

Event concentrating on relations with China

The Moscow Intl. Film Festival opened Saturday with a ceremony laden with Chinese motifs, paying tribute to guest helmer Chen Kaige, whose “The Promise” opened the 27th edition to mixed critical and audience acclaim.

Moscow is concentrating on relations with its Eastern neighbor — the two countries recently launched a year of Russian-Chinese cultural relations.

However, its Chinese emphasis got a bit muddled with some Japanese elements thrown into the opening bash, as well as a Chinese-style musical rendering of a Russian popular song (and, for some reason, Giacomo Puccini’s aria “Nessun dorma”).

Ceremony at least confirmed that Polish director Andrzej Zulawski would lead the main competition jury, after Austrian helmer Michael Haneke was forced to pull out last month due to unexpected production demands.

Also on the jury are Russian helmer Alexei Uchitel, British actress Julie Christie, Canadian thesp Remy Girard and French critic and producer Pierre-Henri Deleau. They will judge 17 films before the fest closes July 2 with Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver.”

Despite a burgeoning year of local production, repped principally at local national fest Kinotavr earlier this month, there’s only one local pic, Alexei Muradov’s “The Worm,” in main competish.

Helmers Bertrand Blier (“How Much Do You Love Me?”), Hungary’s Istvan Szabo (“Relatives”) and Chile’s Raoul Ruiz (Austrian-French-U.K. artistic biopic “Klimt”) are also on the slate, as is sole U.S. contender “Ask the Dust,” from Robert Towne.

Main innovation at MIFF is the new world documentary program.

The Konstantin Stanislavsky “I Believe!” award will go to French thesp Gerard Depardieu.

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