Let's Talk About the Sochi Film Festival
by Shahla Nahid
Many people to whom I said I was going to Sochi didn’t know where it is. When they made an effort, they thought, because of the sound of the word of course, that it is situated somewhere in the far east but not in Russia. They didn’t know that in this beautiful city where the green mountains of the Caucasus come to acquaint Black Sea’s nice, sunny and joyful beach, there is a film festival celebrating its tenth edition. For this celebration the selectors decided to choose ten Russian and foreign films with numbers in their titles like One of us by Gennadi Poloka (USSR 1970) or 8 1/2 by Fellini. The festival has a particular name, Kinotavr, inspired by Kintavr = centaur.
How did the Sochi Film Festival start? At the beginning in this corner of the Krasnodar region where Sochi is situated, the festival started with the huge amount of films produced by different republics of the Soviet Union. Then, two main objectives were forwarded: to encourage a cinema for day to day life, entertaining the cinema and to support the cinema for elite.
In 1994, Mark Rudinstein, president of the Kinotavr group of companies, brings up the idea of adding an international section to this festival to compare the Russian films to those coming from all over the world. A fortunate decision if we believe Sergey Lavrentiev, program director of the festival, who says: “It is known for certain that many notable people in Russian cinema advised and keep advising the founding father of Kinotavr to close down the International Film Festival. Mark is strongly opposed to that advice because he realized that this demonstration along with the competition of new Russian films is truly needed by the Russian cinematography. We may repeat as often as we want that our cinema is the best in the world and that the rest of the world should learn from us. We may give reasons for the foreigners to be disappointment by the Russian cinema because of its intrigues and conspiracy.”
Would it be better to be realistic and try to understand the context of the Russian cinema today?” To answer this question, let’s take a closer look to this year’s edition and the efforts to achieve the aims mentioned above. Lavrentiev’s words describe perfectly well the approach of many cinemas in the world and should be written with golden ink. We are familiar with the situation of the Russian cinema of today so we decided to concentrate on the Russian film competition – 27 films – and awarded a prize to the best Russian film. The experience was useful but the poor quality of most films presented in the Russian competition (18 in total), which will be the proposal of one of my colleagues) showed the emergency to look at Sergey Lavrentiev’s comment. At the same time I think the festival, in spite for lack of money, shows the Russians and to the foreigners the variety of today’s cinema with its different sections such as Western under the red standard, In the mirror of the document, the anniversary of national film and short films. They are a very instructive and interesting part of the festival.
Where is the festival heading, what is the wish for the future? An encouraging point is the film distribution system in Russia which was not existing during the past years is working this year. It makes us more optimistic about the future of the festival. A future which, along with the new airport, could be much brighter and more promising. Let’s hope for the best.
© FIPRESCI 2003