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Moscow fest makes ‘Simple’ choice

Karimi wins Gold St. George award

Russia’s Moscow Film Festival closed Saturday with the top Gold St. George award going to Iranian helmer Reza Mir Karimi for his femme-centered “As Simple as That.”

The jury, headed by Liv Ullmann, gave its special prize to French Flaubert adaptation “The Simple Heart” by Marion Laine. Director honor went to Bulgaria’s Javor Gardev for his black and white arthouse pic, “Zift.”

Best actor was U.S. thesp Richard Jenkins for his lead in Tom McCarthy’s “The Visitor,” the only American film in competition. Actress honor went to Margherita Buy in Italian-Swiss pic “Days and Clouds” from Silvio Soldini.

Top award in the Perspectives sidebar competition was awarded to Mexico’s Rene U. Villareal for “Cumbia Connection.”

Japanese helmer Takeshi Kitano received a life achievement award at the opener, while the closing ceremony’s Konstantin Stanislavsky “I Believe” award was given to French thesp Isabelle Huppert.

The atmosphere at the ceremony at Moscow’s Pushkinsky Cinema was upbeat, despite delays and driving rain on the red carpet.

International star presence at the fest was perhaps lower than in previous years, though Will Smith and Charlize Theron presented the fest’s opener, “Hancock,” two weeks before its international release.

Compared with earlier years, local fare was weak with only two Russian films in the 16-pic competition.

“Once Upon a Time in the Provinces” from sophomore director Katya Shagalova came away with the Fipresci award.

The Russian film critics’ jury backed the main competition award, endorsing “As Simple as That,” and went for “One Shot” from Denmark’s Linda Wendel in the Perspectives competition. An audience award went to “For My Father” from Israel’s Dror Zahavi.

Fest prexy Nikita Mikhalkov said total attendance over the 10-day event approached 100,000.

Audience turnout at the 11-screen Moscow Oktyabr multiplex (as well as one support venue catering mainly to press), was noticeably higher than in previous years when fest sidebars were screened at cinemas around the city.

The quality of the main competition program — in the past often under fire as the weakest part of the event compared with stronger speciality sidebars — was much improved.

On the fest fringe, a delegation led by the U.K. Film Council and including several producers came over for a roundtable on increasing co-productions between the two countries.

Fest’s chief producer Leonid Vereshchagin caused some dismay when he suggested that most local producers had little interest in ceding commercial or creative control to overseas partners at a time when raising money at home is not a big problem.

U.K. helmer Peter Greenaway, whose “Tulse Luper Suitcases” was partly backed by Russian coin, was also in town to give a master class.

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