14th Vladivostok International Film Festival of Asian-Pacific Countries

Russia, September 10 - September 16 2016

The jury

Bernard Besserglik (France), Anjelika Artyukh (Russia), Nirmal Chandra Dhar (India)

Awarded films

The 14th edition of the International Film Festival of Asian Pacific Countries in Vladivostok resulted in a dual triumph for Chinese-born filmmakers on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, with the top awards from both the FIPRESCI and main festival juries going to films shot in China.

The festival’s “regional” designation is misleading since its catchment area is huge, taking in North and most of Latin America, Russia as far as the Baltic sea, the Indian subcontinent, the Turkish and Farsi speaking countries, the Arabic-speaking countries of the Middle East, Australasia and all the island states to the north of Darwen.

The 10 films in the main competition came from Bangladesh, Chile, China (two films), Colombia, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Singapore and the United States. The short film competition included films from Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam as well as the aforementioned countries.

The competition entries featured among the 180 films screened at the week-longfestival (around a quarter of these were shorts). The more than 20 sidebar sections ranged from retrospectives devoted to Harun Farocki, Fedor Bondarchuk (this year’s festival president) and Mikhail Romm to a “focus on Chinese cinema”, selections of Russian and international documentaries, and a fair smattering of films first seen at this year’s Cannes festival.

The 600,000-strong city of Vladivostok has its own very distinctive character. For a first-time visitor, it is hard to say whether it is Russia’s Window to the East or the East’s Gateway to Russia. It’s a bit of both, probably. China, with its powerhouse economy, once owned much of what is now Russia’s eastern seaboard, and is only a few hours’ drive away, as is the hermit state North Korea.  Perched on a peninsula in the far south of Russia’s Pacific coast, it is seven time zones and nearly 10,000 kilometres from the capital, a remoteness which, with the proximity of the Pacific Ocean’s wide open spaces, lends the city a lightness rarely found in Russian cities.

Despite the distance, several personalities from European Russia and other distant countries made the trip, among them were the festival’s guest of honour,actress Jacqueline Bisset, veteran filmmaker Pavel Lunginwho gave a masterclass and presented his latest film Queen of Spadesas the festival opener, and Rock Brynner, making his annual pilgrimage to present a prize in honour of his father Yul Brynner, the city’s favourite sonand star of The King and I and The Magnificent Seven.

At the same time, the distance means that a significant number of the prize-winners were unable to make the trip. This was the case with the Sino-Canadian director Johnny Ma whose Lao Shi (Old Stone) won the International Critics (FIPRESCI) award for best feature, which the jury described as a “powerful debut feature with a dark, Dostoevskian theme. Canada scored a notable double when the same jury favoured the Montreal-based director Arnaud Brisebois’ Anime– also absent from Vladivostok – for the best short film award.

The second of China’s awards came when the festival jury headed by Russian filmmaker Vladimir Khotinenko selected Hanyi Zhang’s Zhi Fan Ye Mao (Life after Life) for its Sea-Shell prize for best feature.

Russia too won a double helping, with the Sea-Shell for best short film going to Zabelin, directed by the duo Nika Barabash and Andreas Kostandakes, and the Star special jury prize going to Nadezhda Stepanova’s Ya Umeu Vyazat’ (I Know how to Knit). In addition, the Star Audience prize went to Alexei Krasovsky’s Kollektor (Collector), filmed with a single actor, the Russian favourite Konstantin Khabensky.

Outside the main competitions, the NETPAC jury singled out the Iranian director Hadi Mohaghegh’s Immortal for the best Asian film award.

A distinct tendency in this year’s Vladivostok selection was for dark themes – death, war and deprivation never far away, with male protagonists often struggling to articulate their emotions. Most strikingly, the two Colombian competition entries, both the feature and the short film, dispensed with dialogue entirely. (Bernard Besserglik, edited by Yael Shuv)

Vladivostok International Film Festival of Asian-Pacific Countries: