Kontavr puts accent on Russia

'Hurt,' 'Station' will be among preems at Fest

MOSCOW — Russia’s national festival Kinotavr, which runs in the Black Sea resort of Sochi June 4-12, has announced a strong lineup — and continuing emphasis on international promotion of Russian product.

Fest has revealed nine pics out of a projected 17, with more premieres than in recent years. Among them are films from established names like Alexei Balabanov (“Brother”) with “It Doesn’t Hurt” and Alexander Rogozhkin (“The Cuckoo”) with his WWII lend-lease air drama “Way Station.”

From the younger generation there are Boris Khlebnikov (co-helmer of acclaimed arthouser “Roads to Koktebel”) with his first solo work “Sailing Free,” Kirill Serebrennikov’s stage adaptation “Playing the Victim,” and first film from scripter Dunya Smirnova (“His Wife’s Diary”) “Contact.”

Rapid development of the Russian production industry has allowed fest programmer Sitora Alieva to program more arthouse titles, and unlike last year, it won’t include pics that have already had a major release in Russia.

Kinotavr, now in its 17th year, changed ownership last year, and is in the hands of producers Alexander Rodnyansky and Igor Tolstunov of Russian TV channel CTC.

Rodnyansky’s efforts to make the event a forum that reflects the reality of the local film business — rather than a celeb beach get-together, as it was in the past — are continuing.

“We hope that it will become a real instrument in which festival victory will be a part of the future market path of any winner,” Rodnyansky says.

In fact, Sergei Selyanov, producer of Balabanov’s and Rogozhkin’s fest pics, has agreed to hold their release until after the fest, an early sign of respect for the event.

This year sees the introduction of a $25,000 cash prize for best film chosen by a jury headed by scripter Rustam Ibragimbekov.

Though Kinotavr nixed its European film competition last year, the challenge for 2006 is to develop the Euro co-production strand. There’s a seminar for around 15 reps from the European Producers Club slated, as well as continuing expansion of events to screen Russian product — whether in the fest program or not — to international buyers and fest programmers.