The 7th Russian Film Festival in London: Afterword
The London Lion Award – the highest prize of the 7th Russian Film Festival – was awarded to WINTER JOURNEY, a film repressed in Russia on the basis of ‘gay propaganda’ law. It was a choice based on merely artistic considerations, rather than a statement of support – as Jos Stelling, the Chairman of the Jury remarked:
“The theme of the alleged homosexuality hardly played a role for me (not even metaphysically). To me this film sometimes approached the status of a masterpiece for its cinematographic values”.
However, we are incredibly happy that due to the Jury’s decision, not only the film itself, but also the problems that its creators are facing right now, will get the well-deserved attention worldwide.
Normally there are very few Russian films shown abroad yearly, and London is no exception. Already for seven years the Russian Film Festival in London does a great job of bringing Russian cinema in all its diversity to British audiences. The ten films in the main programme provided a great opportunity for a fuller understanding of contemporary Russia, and hopefully that will help them to gain the visibility they deserve – which unfortunately is not enough even in the Motherland.
The erotic dramedy INTIMATE PARTS for the first time in Russian cinema history dared to talk freely about non-traditional forms of sexuality, and CITIZEN POET, by parodying Russian literary classics satirised contemporary Russian politics, both films producing an emancipatory effect on the viewer. The imaginative debut BITE THE DUST revolved around the microcosm of Russian national character, masterfully mixing the apocalyptic visions with comedy; whereas SHAME also succeeded in portraying the dynamic of an isolated community, but through a wonderful use of folklore. IVAN SON OF AMIR explored a complex subject of international relations through a prism of personal drama; similarly MIRRORS, through a life story of the great XXth century Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva, spoke about a struggle of an artist and a woman against the repressive power of the state and the society. PIPELINE in a way it portrayed the non-Westernised indigenous parts of Russia and Ukraine, came out to be a love letter from a Westerniser to a Slavophile. Formally stylish BETRAYAL dealt with such a universal matter as infidelity and did not rely that much on Russian national dimension, which in no way reduced its artistic value. GEOGRAPHER DRANK HIS GLOBE AWAY, being based on a Russian novel and at a first glance set in a very characteristically Russian environment, succeeded in engaging British audiences and became the winner of the audience vote.
The festival organiser, Academia Rossica, is committed to promote and strengthen cultural and intellectual ties between Russia and the English-speaking world, working hard every year to present the best of Russian cinema abroad. The support of people in diaspora (and London has one of the biggest Russian diasporas in the world) is definitely one of the ways for some underexposed masterpieces to win international renown.