International film fest set for July 10

Russia’s newest international movie festival, St. Petersburg’s Film Forum, opened Sunday, July 10 in this city known as the country’s cultural capital.

Launched as a one-off non-competitive celebration last year on the 65th anniversary of the end of WWII, and devoted at that time to modern and classic war films, city and regional government authorities have thrown their weight, and funding, behind an annual showcase featuring wider themes, with two competition sections.

Designed to help promote St. Petersburg as a film location and service center — the city boasts the recently opened Russian World Studios, the country’s first modern movie-making complex to be built in more than 60 years — the forum opened with a gala screening of Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In.”

Fest includes two competition programs — Best of the Best, which screens films feted at other fests; and New Territories, which seeks to show films with an innovative angle, and focuses on Russian premieres.

The Best of the Best includes Swedish director Lisa Aschan’s acclaimed “She Monkeys” and Russian director Bakur Bakuradze’s Cannes Un Certain Regard screener “The Hunter.”

New Territories includes Chinese director Miaoyan Zhang’s “Black Blood” about a family that contract HIV after selling their blood and “The Show Must Go On” by Croatia’s Nevio Narasovic about a TV reality show that conceals the outbreak of a Europe-wide war from its participants.

Andrei Plakhov, program director and one of Russia’s top film critics, said the event was dubbed a forum, since its goals are wider than other festivals.

“We aim to have free, open discussions about all the films in the competition and other programs,” Plakhov said.

The program includes a retrospective of award-winning films from Russia’s national Kinotavr film festival; Disney cartoons; documentaries and features about terrorism, such as the full-length version of Olivier Assayas’ “Carlos”; and films about autism.

A cultural program of art and musical events and industry round-tables on co-productions with international producers in attendance also are featured.

Alla Manilova, St. Petersburg deputy governor and head of the forum’s organizing committee, said all screenings, apart from competition programs, were free of charge to the public.

Star power is being provided by actresses Natasha Kinski, Ornella Muti, Dinara Drukarova among others.

The forum closes Friday (July 15) with Spanish director Carlos Saura’s “Flamenco, Flamenco.”

In other festival news from the region:

–The second edition of another new Russian international

festival, Vologda’s VOICES – which showcases the work of debut and

sophomore European directors – closed Saturday (July 9) in the ancient

city 300 miles north-east ofMoscow, with top prize of 30,000 Euro

($42,000) going to British director Paddy Considine for his tough

relationship drama “Tyrannosaur”; prize was divided two thirds to

director and one third to Russian distributor.

–Swedish film “Pure” scooped best director for Lisa Langseth),

an audience award and best actor for Alicia Vikander. Olivia Colman

also won a best actor award for her role in “Tyrannosaur.” Best

screenplay went to France’s Brigitte Sy and Gaele Mace for “Free Hands.”

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