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Sochi hosts Russian fests

Reinforces rep as top venue

SOCHI, Russia — Any lingering doubts that Russia’s main annual fest venue is the Black Sea resort of Sochi were dispelled June 3, when location’s two fests — the Russian Open, better known as the Kinotavr, now in its ninth year, and its younger associate, the Sochi Intl. Festival, in its fifth year — opened in tandem.

With this July’s Moscow fest long canceled, Sochi has become the focus of more than just its traditional critical attentions. With Moscow advertising magnate Sergei Lisovsky joining fest’s traditional team as joint producer in conjunction with veteran and founder Mark Rudinshtein, event has acquired a new TV glamour which has seen it gain national advertising — as well as nightly pop shows alongside the main screening venue, the city’s Winter Theater.

Fest opening symbolically highlighted both the past and future of Russia’s film industry. Sergei Krasavchenko, representing Russian President Boris Yeltsin, presented lifetime achievement awards to veterans Elina Bystritskaya, Vyacheslav Tikhonov and Alexei Petrenko, while others saluted recent laying of the foundation stone at Lisovsky’s Moscow multiplex site as a proof that territory is showing major development drive.

Fest’s main uncertainty to date, however, concerns Alexei German’s “Khrustalyov, My Car,” at one point touted as a competition favorite. With German apparently deciding to re-edit pic after its frosty Cannes reception, its appearance at Sochi seems unlikely.

This year’s special programs are slanted heavily toward British cinema, with opening retrospective of British art-houser Terence Davies — a world first, according to fest organizers — earning applause from local critics.

Meanwhile, “The Full Monty,” in its Russian bigscreen premiere, had auds clamoring that pic should be a role-model for Russia’s re-emerging industry.

International competition is shorter than usual at just 10 pics, though associate panorama programs compensate. International jury is headed by Australian producer Jane Scott, alongside Helmut Berger, Britain’s Richard Goodwin, India’s Aruna Vasudov, Hungarian helmer Enyedi Ildiko, Lithuania’s Bartas Sharunas and local helmers Pavel Lungin and Valery Todorovsky.