Audiences lose 'Contact' with event

MOSCOW — Maybe the audiences were out on the Kiev streets, where an ongoing round-off between opposing Ukrainian political factions continues. At least, attendance from general public and students alike at the city’s “Contact” documentary fest that closed April 20, looked distinctly down.

Running in its third edition, event showed a distinct lack of talent in the local sector, with Contact’s jury declining to award a main prize in the national section of competition, though $2,000 prizes went to two works, “Dissidents” from Oleksandr Frolov and Victor Shkurin, and to Maxim Chernysh for “The Spiral of History.” The former told the stories of 1960-1980s opposition personalities in a way that looked increasingly relevant today.

Event was founded in memory of Larisa Rodnyanskaya, a docu producer who was key to keeping the form alive in Ukraine through the very lean years of the 1990s.

The festival is endowed by her son, Alexander Rodnyansky, himself a past documentary filmmaker, who set up Ukraine’s major broadcaster 1+1 a decade ago, and now heads up the Russian entertainment web CTC.

Parallel international competition, judged by a jury headed by U.K. filmmaker Paul Watson, looked more promising — and conflict, both international and domestic, featured strongly in the more interesting works.

Best full-length feature went to Israeli “Bridge Over the Wadi” from brother helmers Tomer and Barak Heymann.

Jury awarded top prize, with $5,000 attached, to Norwegian entry “Patience in Hearts,” a Down-syndrome story by Ovvind Sandberg.

Other pics that stood out came from the Middle East, and Iran in particular. One was Mehrdad Oskuuei’s Tehran-set children’s detention center drama “It’s Always Late for Freedom,” the other “Exile Family Movie” by Arash Riahi, the story of members of an exiled Iranian family returning to the Iranian capital. Shafar Cohen and Efrat Halil’s “Souvenirs” covered a WWII story on the Jewish brigade that fought with the British army in Europe, while another conflict-driven story was acclaimed Armenian entry “A Story of People in War and Peace” about the impact of the Nagorno-Karabakh war.

For local color, the most relevant entry was Andrei Zagdansky’s “Orange Winter,” a montage from Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, that scored foreign acclaim and possible international sales, even as Kiev residents go through something of the same process today.

However, among most fest guests the more prominent questions were: Where are the audiences? And, more immediately: Can someone get the projection ratios right?

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