Russian fest opens with ‘Mongol’

Pacific Meridian looking strong in fifth year

MOSCOW — It may be entering only its fifth edition, but Vladivostok’s Pacific Meridian fest, set to run Sept. 15-21, seems to going from strength to strength — at a rate many older events might envy.

The fest seems to embody Russia’s national symbol, the double-headed eagle — one head seemingly looking West toward Europe, the other far across Siberia to its Pacific coast, where Vladivostok is the main port.

With major film players like South Korea, China and Japan nearby, it’s no surprise that fest’s opening pic this year is Sergei Bodrov’s Chingiz Khan epic “Mongol,” in which talent from those three lands features prominently.

But the event’s sweep goes farther than just Asia, with its concentration on the wider Pacific Rim, taking in North and most of Latin America, as well as Australasia. Fest numbers 166 films, including shorts, with awards prize money of $105,000 spread over seven categories.

“With 36 countries applying this year, we couldn’t have expected this kind of growth when we began modestly five years ago,” Darkin says. “It’s an attempt to adapt our Russian-European culture to that of Asia — the 21st century will be one of cultural overlapping.”

Russian presence in the main competition program of 11 films is limited to two pics, including Karlovy Vary Fipresci winner “Simple Things.”

Sidebars for Japanese and Chinese films are planned along with retrospectives for Franco-Soviet veteran Otar Iosseliani and Canadian avant-garde animator Norman McLaren.

Jury prexy is Gaul’s Cannes winner Bruno Dumont (“Flanders”).

There’s a special world premiere, too, of Australian helmer Paul Cox his latest work, “Salvation.” It’s a pic with a local connection.

Vladivostok is the only city in Russia to boast a film commission that draws international production: two years ago it helped to bring in South Korean blockbuster “Typhoon.”

This time, Cox (“Innocence”) has set “Salvation” in both his native Oz the Russian Far East, with part of the pic shot in and around Vladivostok.

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