Fall Fest Preview 2011: Vladivostok

Billing itself the “Vladivostok International Film Festival: Pacific Meridian,” and setting on Russia’s distant eastern coastline — far closer to Tokyo and Beijing than to Moscow — VIFF’s activities are focused squarely on servicing its immediate area, screening pics and profiling filmmakers from around the Asia-Pacific region.

For this year’s edition, 20 helmers from 13 nations will compete for the fest’s 625,000 rubles ($21,000) top feature prize. The competition will be judged by an international jury chaired by Brit critic Tony Rayns and including Russian programmer and producer Raisa Fomina, Singapore Film Fest topper Philip Cheah and helmers Lav Diaz (Philippines) and Jan Schutte (Germany). European titles, meanwhile, are restricted to the fest’s non-competitive strands, including the International Panorama.

On the documentary front, sections are divided by thematic interest, ranging from human-rights abuses to the state of global penitentiary systems to one focusing on “extraordinary lifestyles.” In addition, VIFF will present prize-winning films from the 2010 Wildscreen fest, the world’s largest environmental-themed film festival, held every two years in Bristol.

A new section, entitled Moving Forward, concentrates on experimental and challenging cinema, and will unspool Venice Orizzonti winner “Summer of Goliath” by Nicolas Pereda, among others. But cinephiles might be tempted most by the fest’s retrospectives: unearthing some rarely seen features from the vaults of one of the Soviet Union’s major production houses, “The Unknown Lenfilm” will almost certainly contain some treasures, while “The Best Rock Operas” will appeal to anyone who thinks rock ended with the arrival of punk.On a similar note, there’s also a four-film showcase of music-themed works by British documentarian Leslie Woodhead, including “How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin” (2009) and 1992’s “The Incredible Case of Comrade Rockstar,” about Dean Reed, the so-called “Red Elvis” of the Communist Bloc. And Liza Minnelli, hailed by fest organizers not only as a brilliant actress but as a “lady of surpassing beauty,” will be on hand throughout, “inspiring the ninth edition of IFF Pacific Meridian with her august presence.”

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