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    Voices from Vologda

    By Martin Blaney | August 1, 2011

    In photo: Peter Mullan in the Grand Prix winner Tyrannosaur, courtesy VOICES

    In photo: Peter Mullan in the Grand Prix winner Tyrannosaur, courtesy VOICES

    The Moscow International Film Festival had just come to a close when another cinema event – Vologda Independent Cinema from European Screens Festival (VOICES) – opened its doors on July 5th for the second year in a town half-way between the Russian Federation capital and St Petersburg.

    Part of the UNESCO’s world heritage list, Vologda was founded like Moscow in 1147 and laid claim to being the centre of Russia before finally yielding to the Great Capital.

    I bridged the time between Moscow and Vologda by travelling on the hi-tech Savsan fast-speed train to St Petersburg in just four-and-a-half hours. The local filmmaker and festival curator Alexey Dmitriev kindly offered me his hospitality and accompanied me around the city which I had first visited 30 years previously as a language student.

    Then it was on the night train and a journey of 11 hours to Vologda and VOICES which is dedicated to presenting the first and second films by young European directors.

    After last year’s first edition which had seen Sergei Loznitsa’s My Joy winning the festival’s Grand Prix, the Ukrainian director was back this year to join the International Jury headed by the veteran UK director Hugh Hudson (Chariots Of Fire) and including Serbia’s Goran Paskaljevic, Russian actress Kseniya Rappoport, Sofia International Film Festival‘s director Stefan Kitanov, and Italian actress and model Caterina Murino (seen in Casino Royale).

    2011‘s competition lineup of ten films included Michael McDonagh’s The Guard, Brigitte Sy’s Free Hands, Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur, and Oleg Flyangolts‘ Indifference which picked up the Grand Prix at the Kinotavr Open Russian Film Festival in Sochi in June.

    With the Russia-Italy Year of Culture now in full swing, VOICES dedicated a large section of its non-competitive programme to past and present Italian cinema with screenings of Fellini‘s La Dolce Vita and films connected with the controversial Italian writer Curzio Malaparte, among other things.

    The festival was also honoured to have the legendary Italian actress Claudia Cardinale as its muse for the 2011 edition.

    „When Claudia Cardinale learned that the VOICES festival promotes young European cinema, she offered to become a muse of our festival,“ VOICES art director Korinna Danielou said. „In recent years, she has helped a lot of novice directors.“

    Cardinale was in Vologda for the opening ceremony and opened the festival symbolically by smashing a plate on the cinema’s stage – much to the delight of the city’s mayor Evgeniy Shulepov who revealed himself to be a great fan of Miss Cardinale.

    In addition, sidebars were shown of new Spanish cinema and a selection of recent Russian production along with a retrospective dedicated to Alexander Sokurov who received the Talent Without Border Award before a screening of his multi-award-winning Russian Ark.

    After the hustle and bustle of Moscow and St Petersburg, the slower pace of life in Vologda was a welcome change and an opportunity to combine film screenings with getting to know the city and surrounding countryside. Trips were organised to the Spaso-Prilutsky, Kirillo-Belozerksy and Ferapontov monasteries, Vologda’s Kremlin and St Sophia’s Cathedral, the open-air heritage museum and the fascinating „World of Forgotten Things“ Museum.

    The VOICES team of Korinna Danielou, Igor Lysenko, Pavel Morozov and Igor Gouskov has been quite adept at attracting several high-profile international guests to their festival: apart from Sokurov, his fellow director colleagues Paolo Taviani and Krzysztof Zanussi were also in town to give master classes, and there was a pitching session for new projects by Russian and Italian producers with such visiting industry guests as Simone Baumann of German Films, Cinecitta Luce’s Claudia Bedogni, European Producers Club’s Alexandra Lebret and Russian filmmaker Pavel Lungin.

    Paddy Considine’s hard-hitting drama Tyrannosaur has continued its currently successful run at international film festivals by picking up the Grand Prix for Best Film which includes support for the campaign by the film’s Russian theatrical distributor P&I Films.

    Meanwhile, Swedish filmmaker Lisa Langseth’s Pure received three trophies: the award for Best Director, Best Acting Performance for Alicia Vikander (ex aequo with Olivia Colman in Tyrannosaur) and the Audience Award.

    In addition, French director Brigitte Sy was in Vologda to accept the award for Best Screenplay for Free Hands from the Georgian filmmaker Nana Djordjadze who had also given a master class.

    During the award ceremony it was confirmed that the country focus at the third edition of VOICES will be Germany as part of the German-Russian Year beginning in June 2012.

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