‘Simple’ takes top prizes at Kinotavr

Russian film fest recognizes realist drama

MOSCOW — Russia’s national film fest, Kinotavr, which wrapped its 18th edition in Sochi June 12, brought one main surprise — across-the-board prize recognition for the pic “Simple Things” directed by sophomore helmer Alexei Popogrebsky.

A realist drama of everyday life in St. Petersburg, the pic took best director nod for Popogrebsky and also best film. It also picked up best actor prize for lead Sergei Puskepalis, and a special mention for supporting veteran Leonid Bronevoi.

“Simple Things” is the follow-up to the director’s “Roads to Koktebel” from 2003, which he co-helmed with Boris Khlebnikov (whose own follow-up, “Floating Free,” played at Venice last year). “Simple Things” will make its international bow at Karlovy Vary.

Main controversy over awards, aside from the fact so much attention went to one pic, was the absence of a prize for Alexei Balabanov’s “Cargo 200.” A frequent prizewinner in Sochi, with titles including “Brother,” the director delivered a dark, but impressive tragicomedy about the final days of the Soviet Union, set in a provincial town.

It’s a brutal work, indeed, which may have put off the jury. Balabanov took only the supporting critics’ award, and that by a narrow margin over “Simple Things.” Both directors were absent from closing ceremony.

Overall impression from the 14 pics in competition was that the Russian industry is making plenty of pics, but not all of them of equally impressive quality. That said, there was good work in supporting sections, and some impressive short films, particularly docus.

Fest’s closing honorary award went to respected scholar and director of Moscow’s Museum of Cinema (now deprived of its former permanent premises), Naum Kleiman. Closing film was Andrei Zvyagintsev’s “The Banishment,” fresh from its Cannes actor victory.

The fest also began to realize a new direction announced over the last three years by festival chief Alexander Rodnyansky — who’s also head of Moscow TV channel CTC — with particular interest in a two-day seminar on marketing and advertising films.

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