The 39th Moscow International Film Festival (June 22-29, 2017) featured an international competition, a documentary competition and a short film competition. The festival, led by director and actor Nikita Mikhalkov, celebrated its opening in the Rossiya theatre in Moscow with a statement of wanting to be part of the art of world cinema.
The famous director Sergei Eisenstein chaired the jury of the first festival, which was held in Moscow in 1935. Living up to his artistic level was, however, not easy during the Stalin years. The festival states in a historical survey: “Ideological hypocrisy, which became a standard of life in the USSR in the 1970–1980s, had its effect on the festival program. For the greater part it featured the ‘correct’ films from socialist countries and not the very best samples from the West, which usually had a one-sided anti-bourgeois flavor. During the Brezhnev times the Festival could not function as an objective mirror of world cinema.”
One would hope that the programme of 2017 would be free of such flaws. But, as you may read in the report from the FIPRESCI jury member Wieslaw Godzic, the selection of 13 films in the international competition this year did not live up to the ambition of representing world cinema. Rather, one got the impression that Andrei Plakhov and his selection committee picked films that could be used and misused to honour values typical for President Vladimir Putin’s regime. The opening ceremony was filled with a propagandistic homage to Russian soldiers risking their lives in Syria. In the closing ceremony, we were offered ridiculing and embarrassing comments about the sanctions from the West against Russia.
It was an additional disappointment for the FIPRESCI jury in Moscow to experience how Russian journalists and film critics disrespect their colleagues by talking loudly on their cell phones during press screenings.
The festival can boast of having had juries headed by international film personalities, such as Richard Gere, Theo Angelopoulos, Margarethe von Trotta, Luc Besson, Geraldine Chaplin and Mohsen Makhmalbaf.
In this year’s festival the main jury was lead by Reza Mirkarimi from Iran. The jury gave the Golden Saint George for Best Film to Crested Ibis (Yuang shang) by the Chinese director Liang Qiao. The special jury prize, a Silver Saint George, went to The Bottomless Bag (Meshok bez dna) by the Russian director Rustam Khamdamov. Fikret Reyhan from Turkey received the Silver Saint George for Best Directing for Yellow Heat (Sari sicak). The Silver Saint George for Best Actress was awarded to Verena Altenberger in The Best of All Worlds (Die beste aller Welten) by Adrian Goiginger from Austria, while the Silver Saint George for Best Actor went to Son Hyun-Ju in Ordinary Person (Botong saram) by Kim Bong-han from South Korea. (Kristin Aalen, Edited by Birgit Beumers)