MOSCOW — The year after the collapse of the USSR, 1992, was an optimistic time to launch a festival devoted to the cinema of the newly independent countries that had emerged, often precariously, from the Soviet ruins. Its three organizers — actress Irina Shevchuk, scripter Victor Merezhko and promoter Sergei Novozhilov — were new to the business, while the venue, the Black Sea family resort of Anapa, hardly resonated glamour.
A lot has changed in a decade. By its 10th edition, which closed Sept. 17, Kinoshok (literally translated as “film-shock”) has matured into a respected meeting place — an emerging marketplace for filmmakers from the far-flung corners of the Soviet film empire.
Even its location, now one of Russia’s most thriving seaside towns, has changed beyond recognition. As one jury member jokes, what was once “kino-shock” now feels more like “kino-chic.”
Officially renamed the Open Fest of the CIS and Baltics, event is shaping up as one of the region’s most convincing attempts to keep cultural contact open between countries whose political relations are often all-too strained. Competition programs showcase features and short films, while an abundance of Soviet-era star power, as well as open-air evening panorama programs, draw local auds.
For some, like Russia’s Sergei Selyanov, who took a special prize as the territory’s best producer, Kinoshok is a real chance to expand distribution for his films into neighboring markets. With his competition pic, the late-1940s retro drama “Two Drivers Going” taking best director nod for debut feature helmer Alexander Kott, local distribution deals, as well as international fest interest, look assured.
Kinoshok could well emerge as something of an informal co-production forum, modifying a trend by which the region’s directors tend to look outside the territory for support. Some Central Asian players, like Aktan Abdykalykov, whose “The Chimp” took the script award, have long-established business ties with European niche production houses.
Others, like the Uzbek entry “Mother,” rely on personal contacts: helmer Zulfikar Musakov, whose past two pics have had considerable B.O. success in Japan, shot half of his new film there, with sales expected to follow in the region.
Fest’s Grand Prix winner, Peeter Simm’s “Good Hands,” symbolized the combination process perfectly. The first ever Latvian-Estonian co-prod, already booked for next year’s Berlin Panorama, found an original solution to the language problems of joint ventures: Latvian and Estonian characters spoke in their own languages, while crossover dialogue — including, to the delight of Moscow critics, the love scenes — played in Russian.