Friday, 28 December 2012

Fifteen Realities of Russian Cinema (Kinotavr 2012)

“Kinotavr is the reality of Russian cinema”: this is the bold signature claim of the world’s largest national film festival, held in Sochi each year. The claim is, in fact, as accurate as one might reasonably hope for in the hypertrophic world of festival cinema. Kinotavr, dating from 1990, when Mark Rudinshtein’s non-governmental company Moscow Suburbs first organized the Festival of Unbought Cinema in nearby Podol’sk, was later renamed and moved to Sochi, where it became the primary touchstone for contemporary Russian film. Changing hands in 2005, first to media leaders Aleksandr Rodnianskii and Igor’ Tolstunov, then to Rodnianskii alone, Kinotavr survived the lean years of the mid-1990s to flourish, supported by a board that has included major figures in the financial and media industries. Kinotavr’s artistic success is due in large measure to the efforts of program director Sitora Alieva, who takes seriously the festival’s principle task: to form a viewer who is able to watch a range of films; in her own words, to “constitute the auditorium.”

What could be said about Kinotavr’s 2012 “constitution”? Several elements stand out. First is the intriguing question of genre selection: which genres happen to be included this year? Which are absent? This “counterpoint” of generic presence and absence is an enduringly vexed puzzle: to what extent is that counterpoint the result of successful film submissions and to what extent is it a symptom of the industry’s emergent direction?

Kinotavr 2012 offered fifteen new works: three melodramas, two comedies, two psychological dramas, three almanacs, one adaptation, one New Year’s film, two (what I will describe as) quasi-documentary dramas, and one author’s film. Strikingly absent in this inventory are several traditionally dominant genres—the action film, the historical costume drama, the crime drama—all of which had figured among the submissions, but were not included in the final selection. Absent, too, from this year’s choice were the documentary (in its “pure” form), the musical, and the horror film. Even the author’s film—historically a hallmark of the Russian festival circuit (and Russia’s entry into other global festivals)—was represented by only a single film. By contrast to these lacunae, however, the festival selection included three film-almanacs, to which I pay brief attention below, marking a significant turn in the festival competition.

Review by Nancy Condee (U of Pittsburgh) in KinoKultura

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