Every screening at the Odessa Film Festival starts with an appeal to free the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. He was arrested by the Russian authorities and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. According to the Ukrainians, he was illegally imprisoned and convicted. The film festival appeals to freedom and peace for all those who have been illegally convicted, and for all of Ukraine. Every time the appeal shows on the screen, the audience applauds.
The Odessa International Film Festival is young. This year’s version, which opened on Friday 14 July, is the eighth edition. Despite its youth, the festival does not look new. The red-carpet event can measure up with the biggest festivals. More TV-stations and a lot of other media cover the event. The celebrities are elegantly dressed. The crowd watching the event is surprisingly big. You can tell there is a festival in town.
The biggest event every year is the silent-film concert at the Potemkin Steps – perhaps the world’s most famous film location. This was where Sergei Eisenstein played the spectacular, dramatic and politically appealing scene of The Battleship Potemkin in 1925. About 15,000 people watch the screening – sitting and standing on the steps. The festival assumes it has the world’s largest cinema.
The Ladies’ Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames) was shown this year, with the Odessa Symphony Orchestra and a soprano soloist accompanying the screening. This is the last French silent film, directed by Julien Duvivier in 1930. The performance will be remembered. At the first film festival here, there was a screening of Battleship Potemkin, with new music performed by the Odessa Symphony Orchestra.
Ukraine is also a young country when it comes to film. During the Soviet period, there were no possibilities to establish a film industry in Ukraine, but everything was organised within the Soviet Union.
There are two Ukrainian films in the main programme this year. In addition, there are four Ukrainian films in the Ukrainian programme, which is judged by an international critics’ jury and a jury composed of different kinds of film experts.
The Ukrainian Short Film Programme, consisting of 17 films, will be judged by these same juries. By the end of the festival, we will probably be able to identify some patterns and tendencies. However, it is already interesting to see some films’ ironic approach to recent history and past regimes.
The president of the main competition jury is Christian Petzold. Through both the main programme and most of the sidebars, the programmers show a special interest in films from Eastern Europe. That is what most of the guests have come to watch and experience.
Edited by Birgit Beumers
© FIPRESCI 2017
The prize went to a long and a short film in the Ukrainian competition.