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    St. Petersburg plays host to 2nd Kinoforum

    By Martin Blaney | August 18, 2011

    In photo: Alexey German Sr. and his wife with Marlen Khutsiyev (middle) on the Kinoforum’s red carpet, courtesy Kinoforum

    In photo: Alexey German Sr. and his wife with Marlen Khutsiyev (middle) on the Kinoforum’s red carpet, courtesy Kinoforum

    Talk about good timing: the awards ceremony at the VOICES festival in Vologda had just finished on the evening of July 9 when several of the guests were whisked off for a bite to eat before being brought to the station to catch the night train to St Petersburg for the next film festival – the 2nd Saint Petersburg International Kinoforum (July 10-15).

    The first edition of Kinoforum had been held in 2010 within the framework of the celebrations for the 65th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War when more than 100 feature, documentary and animation films had been shown.

    It was during this new event that the idea came about of making the Kinoforum an annual event – thanks to the generous support of the government of St. Petersburg and the governor of St. Petersburg Valentina Matvienko (who is now taking up a top political appointment in Moscow) – with a good friend of KINO – German Film founders Ron and Dorothea Holloway, the veteran Russian director Alexey German Sr., serving as the festival’s president.

    This year’s edition of Kinoforum had two competition programmes – Best of the the Best and The New Territories, with programme director Andrei Plakhov explaining that the Best of the Best competition would “present the award-winning films of the major international film festivals”, while The New Territories “opens new topics, new styles, new names and new tendencies.”

    An extensive programme outside of these two competitions included retrospectives dedicated to the filmmakers Denis Cote, Marlen Khutsiyev, Alexander Rekhviashvili and Naomi Kawase as well as a general retrospective on Italian films held as part of the Year of Italy in Russia, and a showcase of new Russian films first shown at June’s Kinotavr film festival in Sochi.

    Berlin filmmaker Marcus Lenz’s feature debut Close from 2004 was shown in a retrospective sidebar dedicated to films from the so-called Zero Years from 2000-2010. His film which won the Best Film prize at the Achtung Berlin Film Festival was selected for this section by the Russian critic Alexey Medvedev.

    Kinoforum also presented Leo Khasin’s Kaddish For A Friend and the German-international co-productions Carlos, Yuri’s Day and Paradise Now – but expect more German films to be featured next year as part of the Year of Germany and Russia.

    Meanwhile, internationally renowned filmmaker Alexander Sokurov (Russian Ark) – whose new film Faust will be shown in Venice – was the mastermind behind a new initiative called Metropolis Campus for amateur filmmakers from all over Russia and CIS.

    200 young non-professional filmmakers representing 50 cities and 11 countries – from Latvia to Uzbekistan – will participate in the Campus with 155 films selected from over 500 works.

    Running on lines similar in spirit to the Berlinale Talent Campus, the Metropolis Campus’ participants will have the chance to visit festival screenings and attend seminars on scriptwriting, directing and production as well meet Russian and international filmmakers.

    As Sokurov pointed out, the Campus “is not only the festival and cinema school, but also a working platform where the cinematography that is unknown to the audience will become a real cinematography, will get an opportunity to be evaluated professionally, which in its turn will encourage new names, new  ideas  and, as a consequence, the start of a new cinematographic movement.”

    Films from China and Iran took home the top prizes when the awards were handed out at the awards ceremony in the Mikhailkovsky Theatre on July 15.

    The New Territories jury headed by German film historian Ulrich Gregor and including Italian actress Ornella Muti and Icelandic director Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, presented its Grand Prix to  Miaoyan Zhang’s second feature film Black Blood which had its premiere at this year’s Rotterdam International Film Festival, while the Special Award went to Iran’s Vahid Vakilifar for his feature debut Gesher.

    The Prize for Best Director was picked up for Flying Fish by Sri Lankan debutant filmmaker Sanjeewa Pushpakumara who dedicated his prize to the memory of Andrey Tarkovsky and in support of Jafar Panahi before thanking all those who had made his $ 25,000 film possible, ranging from his mother who had singlehandedly organised the set catering through the Hubert Bals Fund to his teachers at the Asian Film Academy in Korea.

    Meanwhile, the jury for the Best of the Best competition awarded its Grand Prix “unanimously” to Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s Golden Bear winner Nadar and Simin: A Separation (see review in KINO 100) and gave a Special Mention to Aki Kaurismäki’s masterful Le Havre.

    Meanwhile, the St. Petersburg Prize for Contribution to Cinematography was presented by the city’s vice-governor Alla Manilova to Marlen Khutsiyev, the subject of one of Kinoforum’s retrospectives. The veteran Russian writer-director, who had been awarded the Alfred Bauer Prize and the Ecumenical Jury Award at the 1992 Berlinale for his film Infinity, also received a special diploma from FIPRESCI in recognition of his “outstanding contribution to world cinema.”

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