The 4th Russian Film Festival took place at the Apollo Cinema on Regent Stree between the 29th and the 7th of November 2010. The festival has been organized by Academia Rossica, a London-based arts association that has been building cultural relations between Russia and the West for the past decade.
The festival hosted the ten best examples of this year’s Russian cinematography, many of which were awarded international and national prizes. The festival was presented by Svetlana Adjoubei, director of Academia Rossica and Andrei Plakhov, internationally acclaimed film critic and programme director of the Russian Film Festival.
The Russian Film Festival opened with a press conference at BAFTA on Friday the 29th of October, where the English and the Russian media had the chance of meeting in person the filmmakers of the today’s Russian groundbreaking scene. Among them Svetlana Proskurina, Vera Glagoleva, Irina Evteeva, Natalia Ivanova and Andrey Stempkovsky. It was agreed that the Russian film-making scene is highly dynamic at the moment. This is because such themes as the war, female reaction to it and, more broadly, oppression, were silenced by prompt censorship up until the beginning of the 90s, when the Soviet Union collapsed, whereas now film producers enjoy more freedom to explore them.
Anna Proskurina, director of the masterpiece “Truce” emphasised the quintessential features in Russian artistic production, that of humanitarianism and attention to the less well-off.
The central theme of this year’s Russian Film Festival was the war. The brilliant “One War” by Vera Glagoleva was awarded an Oscar nomination. It deals with the female reaction to the Second World War and reassesses the ordinary perceptions of crime and punishment. “Truce” by Svetlana Proskurina is about the war for finding the authentic “self” in each character’s inner life and the continuous struggles they face when making choices.
The brave shooting of “Reverse Motion” by the young Andrey Stempkovsky is an existential drama on a mother that loses her son during the war an then decides to adopt an abandoned child.
“Gastarbeiter” by Yusup Suleimanovitch Razykov explores the idea of the war in a social context. The film is an unusual portrayal of the problems that immigrants from Central Asia and Eastern Europe commonly face in Russia.
The most popular film this year was “How I ended this summer” by Alexei Popogrebsky that won three prizes at the Berlin Film Festival. It is a psychological thriller set in the Arctic Circle depicting the tensions shared by the two protagonists and arisen by living in complete isolation and almost total daylight. A war for their own survival, and a war within their conscience, but nevertheless a war.
The film festival also included the finest documentaries of the 2000s and were presented by Vitaly Mansky, the documentary programme director of the festival and a famous Russian documentary-maker. Animation could not be missing in the programme and the new and extraordinary “Ugly Duckling” by Garry Bardin was shown to the British audience. In this regard the festival presented a retrospective of the celebrated animators Garry Bardin and Irina Evteeva, who took part in a Q &A discussion on the field of animation in Russia today. Her “Little Tragedies” are beautifully made animated films, based on Alexander Pushkin’s verses and “Petersburg” is a stunning collage of animation and documentary footage. All screenings were followed by Q & A sessions with film producers and actors, giving plenty of opportunities to the London-based audience to enquire about Russian film production and its fascinating evolution during the past few years.
Special screenings based on Leo Tolstoy’s life and works have been added to the programme to commemorate the centenary of his death in 1910. Interestingly, the festival coincided with the centenary of the start of his agony from pneumonia on the 29th of October and death on the 7th of November 1910. Hopefully the 4th Russian Film Festival will have served not as agony, but as a seed for new ecstatic thoughts for whoever had the immense luck to attend it this year.