Moscow festival makes assured debut

MOSCOW — Irish director John Carney woke up Tuesday with a healthy $100,000 in the bank for his next film project, after his film “Once” took the top prize at Moscow’s debut fest 2Morrow, which closed late Monday.

The four-day fest, with a jury headed up by Dutch helmer Jos Stelling, whose latest film “Duska” was the event’s closing feature, received main sponsorship support, including the generous top cash prize, from the Russian arm of automobile maker Audi.

The fest was billed as an attempt to promote originality in filmmaking, especially on the arthouse front, in a climate when indie distribbers in Russia are feeling distinctly stretched. Tigran Dokhalov, head of West, which will eventually distribute “Once” even if only on a handful of copies, told Variety it’s just the kind of boost needed to propel the pic’s promotion campaign.

Most of the fest’s films have been acquired by local players — though the majority will catch only a single-digit print release, if they don’t go straight to DVD.

2Morrow was also pitched as an alternative to the long-established, but more staid, Moscow Intl. Film Festival, which runs in the Russian capital late June. Frisson came from the fact that 2Morrow’s organizers, local outfit Interfest, were behind the Moscow fest for many years until the two sides parted company in 2006.

2Morrow chief programmer Alexei Medvedev is also a past MIFF selector. He seems to have done a good job in his new role, putting together a program with considerable integrity, that drew in local filmmakers — and increasingly, over the weekend, general viewers as well — over the fest’s short run.

Innovations came with a closing ceremony presented by “virtual” presenters, voices broadcast over a stage with microphones and no human presence, as well as a generally more democratic atmosphere (MIFF has long looked bureaucratic and elitist in that respect).

Four supporting prizes went to Estonia’s “Magnus” from Kadri Kousaar in the sound category, while story award also went to Carney’s “Once.” The image award went to Japan for Daihachi Yoshida’s “Funuke Show Some Love You Losers!,” and the acting prize was shared between actor-helmer Steve Buscemi and his co-star Sienna Miller for “Interview,” the English-language remake of Dutch director Theo Van Gogh’s pic. Buscemi’s film was opening night pic at 2Morrow.

Another innovation came with a special prize from local bloggers’ jury that went to Hungarian film “Milky Way” by Benedek Fliegauf.

Next year’s 2Morrow has already been underwritten by Audi, and the fest, which ran modestly enough in a single Moscow two-screen venue, looks to have some room for expansion.

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