33 MIFF premiers

Day two of 33rd MIFF was full of events. First jury members of the three competitions – Main, Perspectives and Documentary – were introduced. On Friday first competing films were demonstrated.

The main event of Friday was a meeting with 33rd MIFF jury which took place in the lobby of Khudozhestvenny Cinema Hall. Photographers would not let go those who will shape destiny of festival films. It should come as no surprise that the most photographers’ attention was drawn to the Chairman of the jury, actress Geraldine Chaplin. Hardly had the improvised photo session ended, questions to the daughter of the outstanding Charles came like a flood. Despite her surname, Geraldine Chaplin made her own way in cinema with some dozens of characters – starting from Tonya Gromeko in Doctor Zhivago by David Lean and up to Catherine Bilova in Talk to Her by Pedro Almodóvar.

The press conference announcer Peter Shepotinnik opened the press conference with his traditional question, “What have you had to forgo to come to Moscow?” Geraldine Chaplin simply answered she had nothing to give up, but her family. “I had a lot of film projects in my life, last year I participated in five pictures simultaneously. And one film has been shot this year. So, it is enough for me.” Israeli stage director Amos Gitai also turned his attention to his colleague from Main competition jury. “My mother wrote me how she had met my father. It was in Haifa, my native city. At their first date they came to the cinema to watch a film with Charles Chaplin. So I owe my life to your great father”, Amos Gitai shared his personal story.

Another start person from 33rd MIFF jury – Hungarian classic Károly MAKK did not share his plans for film staging and also preferred to dive into recollections. “My first time at Moscow Film Festival was 45 years ago. I was a member of the jury in far 1977. Hungarian film-makers have always had tight bounds with Soviet, Russian colleagues. Now it is high time to see what has changed and to meet those whom I remember from that far period”. Javier Martín-Domínguez, the director of the Seville European Film festival and a member of 33rd MIFF jury, has also been to Moscow before, but not as a film-maker, he came here as a journalist. “It was late-1980s, I covered the meeting of Gorbachev and Reagan. This time I’ll combine business with pleasure: I’m preparing a Russian program for my festival in Spain, so this is the best opportunity to watch your films.”

The only representative of Russia in the Main competition jury is stage director Nikolay Dostal. Two years ago he won MIFF with his film Petya po doroge v Tsarstvie Nebesnoe / Pete on the Way to Heaven. “What do you not like in modern cinema?” the audience asked. “Dominance of entertainment over art, and it is our tragic future”, said the stage director hoping that MIFF’s films will make the future more bright. But probably the main question was addressed to the Chairman of the jury. “What are the criteria for Geraldine Chaplin to judge a film?” The answer was straight. “I hate the very word “judge”. Art does not tolerate judges. I can name one hundred reasons when I dislike a film. But there are none, if I think a picture is magnificent – you are just short of words. We watch films not with our mind, but with eyes, consciousness, our body. That is why it is very hard to understand who the best is when we talk about arts.”

On June 24 Moscow Film Festival saw some other contesting films. The first film demonstrated was Montevideo, Taste of a Dream / Montevideo, Bog te video (Serbia). It was presented by Director Dragan Bjelogrlić, Producer Dejan Petrović, actors Miloš Biković and Milutin Karadžić as well as Nina Jankovi. All the events taking place in the Former Yugoslavia in 1930s are about football. It is worth mentioning that this very game was the central topic of Hermano / Brother, last MMIF Main Prize winner. The press conference announcer Program Director Kirill Razlogov wished to the film crew that this year the tradition went on. “I wanted to shoot a film free of the spirit of nihilism and seamy side. I am interested in real human values”, described his aim Dragan Bjelogrlić. At the same time he mourned that in his country and in Europe in general such films are not staged any more. It turned out that he is an actor with 30-year experience. Montevideo,

Taste of a Dream is Dragan Bjelogrlić’s debut as a stage director. He decided to shoot this picture because of soreness, “There are a lot of stage directors who intentionally draw their countries in dark colours thus making their way to the global market. I wanted to make a good-natured picture with a note of nostalgia for the Former Yugoslavia.” And Producer Dejan Petrović added that before the shooting started they had known that they would like that the first night of their film was at Moscow International Film Festival. “MIFF is the best place for the first night of our film, it is a real honour for us”, director added. The story depicted in the film is real: protagonists’ prototypes are known Serbian football players. The featured actors are young Balkan actors, they are still students. “To shoot them was a bold and wise decision”, summed up Dragan Bjelogrlić.

In the Name of the Devil / W imieniu diabła is another Eastern European film from the Main competition which was demonstrated on Friday. A Polish picture about strange events in a nunnery was presented by Director Barbara Sass and actress Katarzyna Zawadzka. At the press conference it turned out that initially the author had intended to shoot a film on another topic. 20 years ago she read in a newspaper a catching story about an American sect and got interested in the phenomenon of people manipulation. “I was really affected by the topic”, says Barbara Sass. “But when I started to dig dipper I realized that this American story is alien for our Eastern European environment, so we had to change the story.” The only thing the director was interested in was people manipulation. The reason for film shooting was a scandal about one Polish nunnery where the Mother Superior drawn nuns into a sect. But being a real artist, Barbara Sass wanted to imbed only her own feeling and emotions in this story, therefore she had not talked to participants of that conflict; she made her own story instead which turned out to be more close to the reality.

The Friday at MMIF started from a press conference with authors of the Undercurrent / Brim. Films from Iceland is an event in their nature, not often amateurs in Moscow get a chance to watch a film from the native country of Bjork and Eyjafjallajökull volcano. All the better that the Undercurrent / Brim is a kind of cubed Iceland. Cinema verité about everyday life of fishermen, nature subdual fleshed out with suicides and betrayals. The first question asked by journalists was not a surprise: why for his film Árni Ólafur Ásgeirsson chose such a stereotype Icelandic topic as fishing? “Yes, it is an important part of our culture. Nevertheless, for modern Icelanders, especially for town dwellers, fishing in the sea is rather exotic. There is certainly the memory of generations: our fathers, grandfathers, they all were fishermen. Even I, though not a professional fisherman, sail on the seas and fished. But the conflict of generations is nowhere to hide”, explained Árni Ólafur Ásgeirsson his decision. It is not by chance that the Undercurrent / Brim reminds you a performance. By the way, the director drew on the idea from the theatre when he saw the performance staged. After that he decided to shoot as true a story about Icelandic fishermen’s life as possible, “You may not shoot a film about fishermen in my country telling fibs – it will be noticed at once.”

True cinema uncensored – such films are expected from the participants of MIFF by members of Perspectives competition jury. They also had their conference on Friday. But not all of them had a talk with journalists in Khudozhestvenny Cinema Hall – Aleksandr Kott will join his colleagues only tomorrow. Nevertheless, there were no problems with the conversation – by chance, 33rd MIFF jury member all speak Russian. These are a Serbian film critic Miroljub Vučković and Kazakh stage director Ermek Shinarbayev. These were them who answered journalists’ questions. Miroljub Vučković, the Program Director of Film festival in Belgrade and Head of the Film Centre Serbia, knows he expects from the films participating in MIFF, “Fresh mountain air or sea breeze. The main task of the film festival is to discover new trends which in the near future will become a dominant in the world cinema art. They say that at the moment auteur cinematography is having a bad time, but believe me such words would be appropriate any time. In the Perspectives competition I will search for a film which will stir me up.” It turns out in all appearances that his colleague from the jury Ermek Shinarbayev is prompted by the very Moscow atmosphere, “It has a kind of energy in it which you want to share. It is very familiar to me as we are brought up by Russian cinematographers and make our films in Russian.” According to the stage director from Kazakhstan, perspective film does not necessarily mean negation of all cinema cannons. “For me, expectation of a miracle in the cinema hall is very important and, you know, miracles usually happen and when we were to talk about modern cinema, young stage directors say that classics in out-of-date. Then you see: their films are directly associated with classic cinematography.”

The Abendland, a film from the Documentary competition which is held within MIFF first time for 22 years, is presented by Nikolaus Geyrhalter. He is the leading documentalist of Austria, his home country. And this status was officially confirmed as early as in 2003 with the state award, some local award similar to the State Prize. Apart from this award Geyrhalter won film festivals in Vienna, Amsterdam and Berlin for his film Das Jahr Nach Dayto, a shrilling documentary film about the war in Bosnia. His latest work which the author brought to Moscow is called Abendland.

During the press conference in Khudozhestvenny Cinema Hall Nikolaus Geyrhalter said that he had crossed half Europe in order to understand what the Old World is if the lights are out. It is a series of stories about life of European megalopolis – from Rome to Berlin, from the Pope on the St. Peter's Square in Vatican to whores in the red light quarter of Amsterdam. Scrambling through night club raves and criminal shoot-outs in city suburbs, the stage director came to a surprising conclusion which he wants to share with Moscow audience, “Only homes for elderly people are similar all over Europe. Elderly people and the romanticism they keep in Europe are the things worth seeing and thinking of.” Watching the film, the viewer is not always aware of where Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s camera is. “For the most curious audience we placed the list of all cities where we were shooting the film in the closing credits”, promised the Austrian stage director.
Also the documentary film program presents the Czech Peace by Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda. Te film is about citizens of a small Czech town the mayor of which decided to lead a matchless fight again the USA planning to place their air defence missile systems in the town. It is a very topical story which will undoubtedly draw viewers’ attention.

On that very day members of the Documentary competition jury were introduced, among them were the Chairman of the Jury director Michael Apted, director and cinematographer Alexander Gutman and film expert Tue Steen Müller. Films selected by them, like in the Main and Perspectives competitions, will be awarded with St. George for the first time during 22 years of MIFF.

Grigory Libergal, one of the competition supervisors, who announced the press conference open, said that “disappearance of documentary films from the competition was due to the hard economic situation in the country and in the cinema art in particular.” But he thinks that now documentaries are coming back. Danish film expert Steen Müller agreed with this statement, “as nowadays documentary cinematography may afford practically anything up to using game history episodes.” And director Michael Apted confessed that h loves documentary for its unexpectedness as “at the beginning of the film-making process it is impossible to predict what the end of the film will be.”