36th Moscow International Film Festival

Russia, June 19 - June 28 2014

The jury

Gideon Kouts (France), Andrés Nazarala (Chile), Rita Di Santo (UK), Carolin Weidner (Germany), Olga Surkova ()

Awarded films

The Moscow International Film Festival remains Russia’s main cinematic event. Its only ‘A’ category film festival, and among the oldest in the world (its first, irregular, edition was held in 1935 and the Jury was headed by Sergei Eisenstein). In his “Golden Age” (as defined by the Russian Federation Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky), some important filmmakers (like Hungarian director István Szabó) debuted in Moscow and returned there to show their work with the usual participation of many International stars.

But this year, politics took over art. International sanctions against Russia over its intervention in Ukraine put off many international directors. No Hollywood figures were present at the opening Gala (with the exception of the “Game of Thrones” TV series stars) in the Rossiya theater. Many invited foreign guests turned down the invitation “because they were sick or pretended to be busy”, said Festival President Nikita Mikhalkov: “But there is something positive about it: There is a necessity to look at ourselves, to be independent.”

Nevertheless, the official competition contained 16 movies of varied genres, many of them debuts, from such diverse countries as the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Turkey, Israel, Iran, Switzerland, South Korea, Greece, Netherlands, Poland and Ukraine, which opened the competition. Among the special screenings, the opening movie, Gabe Polsky’s documentary The Red Army and the closing film, the world premiere of Dawn to the Planet of the Apes by Matt Reeves, were American. Other sections included: The documentary competition, The Free Thought documentary cinema program and others out of competition selections: The eclectic 8 And A Half, Anima Latina, Atelier, Divine Euphoria (religious themes), Far Away-So Close (films from former Soviet Union countries), Savage Nights (horror movies), Europe plus Europe (on East and West realities today), Russian Trace (foreign look on Russia), Made in China, The Third Age and a retrospective of Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi celebrating his 75th anniversary.

Japan was the big winner of the Grand Jury’s “Golden St. George”, for the first time since 1999. The award went to Kazayushi Kamakiri’s My Man (Watashi-No Otoko) about a love affair between a man and his adopted daughter and the Jury, headed by Russian veteran director Gleb Panfilov, also gave the Best Actor award to Japanese actor Tadanobu Asano and the Special Prize to the Turkish movie Eye Am (Gôzumun Nuru) based on the director’s and main actor Melik Sarakoglu’s own real-life experience of almost going blind. But the most significant award was the attribution of Best Actress “Silver St. George” to Ukrainian actress Natalka Polovynka for her performance in Victoria Trofimenko’s Brothers: The Final Confession (the movie also won the Russian Film Critics award). Serhiy Trymbach, President of the Ukrainian National Filmmakers Union, who accepted the award on her behalf, recalled the fate of Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, arrested by the Russian army in Crimea and proposed that an appeal for his release be made to President Putin. Nikita Mikhalkov said this case will now receive attention “at the highest level” since it would be broadcast on national television. Jury member Mauritanian director Abderrahmane Sissako handed the Best Director award to the “enfant terrible” of young Russian cinema, Valeriya Gay Germanika, for her very controversial second feature Yes and Yes (Da I Da), the movie which won this year’s FIPRESCI award.

The FIPRESCI Jury was the first to present its award to a film in the official competition selection at the Independent Juries’ ceremony which took place earlier, but was largely commented in the local and international press. Before announcing the Prize to Valeriya Gay Germanika’s Yes and Yes, Jury President Gideon Kouts declared at the press conference that members of the Jury were “honored to be invited to this year’s Moscow festival” and that they were “opposed to any cultural boycott on Russia”, but, he added, that they championed also the freedom of artistic expression. “We don’t want to intervene in foreign States’ lawmaking, but we strongly hope that the Russian and international public can see the film we have selected and any other film, in the original version which represents its creator”. This declaration was warmly and loudly applauded by the public, including film critics, filmmakers and officials.

As a new “anti-obscenity” legislation came into effect in Russia on July 1, Germanika’s film may be denied a theatrical release because of its extensive use of swear words. Producer Fyodor Bondarchuk, who thanked FIPRESCI Jury for its choice, had suggested bleeps might have to be inserted over the “four-letter words” (in fact, in Russian, often longer and much more varied…) or dialogues simply changed. The movie depicts a continuous dream or nightmare of an encounter between young schoolteacher and rebellious painter in a “Bohemian” desperate milieu.

The FIPRESCI Jury awarded its Prize to Yes and Yes for its “original and sometimes provocative presentation and exploration of contemporary generations’ way of life, creation and language”. Jury member Rita Di Santo added in the press conference that the film “broadened the boundaries of cinema language” and cited Jean Luc Godard’s words: “Ideas separate us, but dreams unite us”. Yes and Yes also received the Kommersant Weekly Prize. (Gideon Kouts)

Moscow International Film Festival: www.moscowfilmfestival.ru