32nd Moscow International Film Festival

Russia, June 17 - June 26 2010

The jury

Daniel Rafaelic (Croatia), France Hatron (France), Carmen Gray (Great Britain), Bitopan Borborah (India), Birgit Beumers (UK)

Awarded films

Moscow Heat 2010. The 32nd edition of the MIFF — Moscow International Film Festival ran from 17-26 June, when the heat of the summer peaked in the mid 30s — and the heat of football fans reached probably even higher temper(ature)s.

The festival presented a wide range of programs, including the main competition with seventeen features and the sidebar competition titled “Perspectives” with nine films. There were several gala premieres, such as that of the Belarusian-Russian coproduction The Fortress of Brest (Brestskaia krepost’), directed by Alexander Kott, which premiered on 22 June in Moscow and simultaneously in Brest — telling of the heroic feats of Soviet soldiers caught up in the Fortress during the German invasion of 1941.

The Festival presented retrospectives of Akira Kurosawa at 100; Sergio Leone’s restored classics; Claude Chabrol “8 from 71”, and of jury president Luc Besson. Moreover, there was a section presenting Sokurov’s new documentary cycle; Evgenii Margolit’s amazing programme of “forgotten” films of the Soviet period entitled “Socialist Avant-garde”; a programme of Chekhov adaptation (this year marks the 150th birthday of the great dramatist); Andrei Plakhov’s “Moscow Euphoria”, which this time consisted of the “FIPRESCI Choice,” curated by Barbara Lorey de Lacharriere; as well as short films and documentaries. As always, Peter Shepotinnik’s programme “8 1/2” with the best festival films of the last few months proved extremely popular with audiences, while programmes such as Asian Extreme, Russian Trace, CineFantom and others contributed further to an enticing, rich and wide-ranging programme of MIFF. The Russian programme — without the winners of Sochi’s Kinotavr Festival held at the beginning of June, such as Svetlana Proskurina’s Truce (Peremirie); the Karlovy Vary competition entry Another Sky (Drugoe nebo) by Dmitrii Mamuliia and Sergei Loznitsa’s Cannes competition entry My Joy (Schast’e moe) — nevertheless attracted huge numbers to the screenings in the House of Cinema.

Taking into account that the megapolis Moscow grinds to a halt during the day, when the centre’s streets tend to resemble one huge parking lot, the festival managed extremely well to bridge this difficulty by sticking with the choice of the October Cinema on New Arbat and the Arts Cinema (Khudozhestvenny) for press screening — within a few minutes walk of October. The selection committee headed by the film expert Kirill Razlogov made sound and informed choices, although it came as a (pleasant) surprise that there was only one Russian entry in the competition: Yuri Shiller’s Sparrow (Vorobei).

For decades the festival has had a reputation for awarding prizes to Russian films — a tradition that went back to the Soviet days, when one award would by definition go to a Soviet film and another to a filmmaker from the socialist bloc. As recently as last year, the competition included three Russian films, which all garnered awards. Moreover, Sparrow is a debut film, made by a documentary filmmaker from Novosibirsk — someone who could be described as an “outsider” to the Moscow film scene. And in the end it was even more surprising that the film won no award at all — although it is a worthy of attention.

Another striking feature of the competition programme was the preoccupation with traditional story-telling rather than visual forms (something offset by the “Perspectives” programme, where films tends to be more experimental in their choice of film language) and the thematic focus on two themes: the issue of migration in the modern world, of ethnic conflicts and difficulties of integration; and the theme of the past, in particular the period of Soviet occupation, in the majority of competition films from Central Europe. The winner of the Saint George award, Brother (Hermano) by Venezuelan director Marcel Rasquin, stood out from this competition in its choice of a contemporary story with a strong social theme. (Birgit Beumers)

Moscow International Film Festival: www.moscowfilmfestival.ru