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Lungin’s ‘Island’ opens Kinotavr

Russian fest boasts 14 premieres

MOSCOW — Franco-Russian helmer Pavel Lungin’s “The Island” will open Russian national fest Kinotavr on June 4.

Lungin’s “Roots” took top awards at last year’s edition of the fest, which takes place in Sochi on Russia’s Black Sea riviera.

A drama about a modern day “holy fool,” “The Island” reunites Paris-based Lungin with musician Pyotr Ma-monov, with whom he worked on Cannes 1990 prize-winner “Taxi Blues.”

Mamonov is billed alongside popular local thesp Viktor Sukhorukov. Both players have a rep for eccentric behavior both on and off the screen.

Program at Kinotavr, running through June 12, looks strong — reflecting the growth of Russia’s national industry. Fourteen of the 15 competish pics will be premieres. Selectors have ignored pics that have already been released, unlike last year, which was the first under new management.

TV channel CTC producers Alex-ander Rodnyansky and Igor Tolstunov are confirmed as backers for the event, with Sitora Alieva in charge of selection.

Throughout the early 1990s, Kinotavr hosted the majority of local premieres, chiefly because local pics had few opportunities to be distribbed in Russia. The past five years has seen an improvement in the market for local fare, which has meant the fest has increasingly assumed a retrospective slant. This year the only film in Kinotavr’s competition already screened around the country is Tigran Keosayan’s Brezhnev comedy-drama “Rabbit over the Abyss.”

One of the competish pics, Alexei Balabanov’s “It Doesn’t Hurt,” features Kinotavr fest founder Mark Rudin-shtein, but the latter is unlikely to attend, given a two-year moratorium on his presence specified in the hand-over deal. Balabanov two “Brother” movies in the 1990s were both local B.O. hits.

Competing against it, before a jury headed by vet scripter Rustam Ibragimbekov, is a wide range of new pics.

Leading the pack is World War II lend-lease air drama “Transit” from Alexander Rogozhkin (“The Cuckoo”).

Both Balabanov and Ibragimbekov’s films come from Sergei Selyanov’s respected CTB production house, and Selyanov agreed to delay their release until after the festival.

Rodnyansky intends the fest to be a platform from which to launch pics. “We hope that it will become a real instrument in which festival victory is a part of the market path of any pic,” he said.

There’s a strong showing from the younger generation of Russian directors. Boris Khlebnikov, co-director of “Roads to Koktebel,” the acclaimed winner of 2004 Moscow festival, shows his first solo work “Free Float-ing.”

Theater and television helmer Kirill Serebrennikov’s adaptation of his Moscow Arts Theater production of brothers Oleg and Vladimir Presnyakov’s absurdist “Playing the Victim” has already won much acclaim after a Moscow press screening.

Scripter Dunya Smirnova (“His Wife’s Diary”) shows her directing debut, “Relations.”

“Euphoria” by Siberian dramatist and director Ivan Vyrypaev, acclaimed as a co-scenarist on local hit “Boomer: Film Two,” was a last-minute addition to the program. Alexander Veledinsky, whose last film was an adaptation of works by novelist Eduard Limonov titled “It’s Russian,” shows “Alive.”

From a somewhat older generation of directors, there’s “The Ugly Swans” by Konstantin Lopushansky, a St. Petersburg director whose perestroika work displayed a distinctly eccentric perspective, and “Soviet Park” from Yuly Gusman.

Programmer Alieva also talks of the much wider origin of submitted works, well beyond the traditional Moscow and St. Petersburg area — and now drawn from as far away as Siberia and the Far East. Upcoming directors will be involved in a pitching forum sidebar with producers, staged for the first time.

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