Following the announcement of the cross-year of Language and Literature by the UK and Russian governments, Russian Film Week has started on November 30 in Regents Street Cinema.
Festival founder Filip Perkon describes the event, which has been running for two years, as an “an attempt to build a dialogue through values and views”.
Filip has special expectations for this year’s festival and believes it will continue as a ‘good tradition’ for years: “Not all of the films fit in the Western filmmaking, but it’s a good way to introduce British audience to Russian culture, which is extremely important with all those political tensions going on”.
Russian singer Dima Bilan, who won the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest, came to the festival’s opening ceremony to present the historical romance “Heritage of Love”. He emotionally describes his experience of starring in the picture, which is to be shown during the festival: “It’s my first visit to London as an actor. Many people ask me about the difference between acting and singing…Well, in Russia we use a word ‘artist’ to define all the people of art: painters, singers, and actors. I mean if you’re willing to create something and deliver it to the world, there shouldn’t be any barriers. You can do pretty much anything.”
The “Heritage of Love” by Yuri Vasilev and many other films including ”Ptitsa”, a comedy by Ksenia Baskakova and “Two Women”, a drama by Vera Glagoleva, are shown in London for screening, but also presented to the jury of the “Golden Unicorn Awards”, with which the festival will finish. As Filip says, the unicorn refers to the mystical creature, which is symbolic for both Russia and the UK. The contestants are established in several nominations, including Best Feature Film, Best Screenplay, Best Foreign Film about Russia or Set in Russia, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Short, Best Documentary and Best Animated Film.
Vlad Strukov, Associate Professor in Film and Digital Cultures at Leeds University and one of the jury of the “Golden Unicorn”, played a huge role in introducing Russian filmmaking to the British audience. His book “Russian Contemporary Film” discussed not only established directors but also those who are less known in the western countries.
As a specialist, the professor tells that modern Russian filmmaking isn’t a ‘homogenous field’: “There’re huge generations of filmmakers working at the same time. We have a generation of established filmmakers from the Soviet time like Alexander Sokurov, Alexei German or Kira Muratova, which represent the liberal art house. But we also have the generation of more conservative traditionalists like Nikita Mikhalkov, Karen Shaknazarov. I’d also say that I’m delighted to see a new generation of directors in their 20s, a couple of them will be shown at the film festival this week, including Uchitel’s work. There will be directors from the Soviet era, Russian directors and even films that were filmed outside of Russia.”
Pr. Strukov believes that British audience has always been interested in Russian culture and that it’s an exciting field to work in right now: “There’s a huge demand in Russian culture in the west and particularly in Britain. I find it’s a great opportunity for young people to make a name in the western world in fashion, filmmaking or any other arts.”
Speaking about challenges for Russian contemporary film industry, he says, he finds it “disappointing” that Russian government and independent non-government related cultural agencies are not that effective in promoting Russian culture.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, but I feel that there’s a lack of support of government and also individual cultural institutions. It’s never been easy to make films; it’s big funding for big projects. Less or more political control, financial help, it comes and goes. What I’m talking about is that there’s a lack of promotion to especially young directors globally. There’s not even a good website, where you can read about the new Russian directors”, he concludes.
“As this kind of promotional channel, this festival’s doing a great job”, says Pr. Vlad Strukov, and the fact that tickets to the first screening of the “Heritage of Love” were sold out almost right off the announcement of the festival, prove his words.
Russian Film Week is on till 4 December. Tickets to the screenings and the program are available on the official website of Russian Film Week.