THE FIRST ANNUAL EXHIBITION OF RUSSIAN CINEMA IN HOLLYWOOD
The first Russian International Film festival (RIFF) has been established with an aim to promoting Russian filmmakers and their product worldwide.
It was with this goal in mind that RIFF plans to hold “moveable showcases” of the best 20th century Russian films as well as those made by young filmmakers who made their debut already in the new millennium. RIFF hopes to contribute to giving the finest 20th century and modern Russian movies worldwide recognition as part of the International Filmmakers’ Hall of Fame.
The Russian International Film Festival is the first major retrospective of Russian film masterpieces abroad.
Hollywood ’s very prestigious ArcLight cinema center on Sunset Boulevard served as the main venue of the festival.
The weeklong screening of more than 30 feature, documentary and animated films spanning the century-old history of Russian cinema was the first event of the Russian International Film Festival organized by the Stas Namin Center (SNC), the American Film Institute – AFI, and the Seven Arts Productions company with some help from the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.
“…It is highly symbolical that the Russian film retrospective is going to be held at the very heart of the world cinema industry, Hollywood. I’m positive that the festival will not only unveil to the American viewers masterpieces by such leading 20 th century filmmakers as Sergei Eisenstein, Grigory Chukhrai and Andrei Tarkovsky but will also give them a chance to familiarize themselves with the grand traditions of Russian culture and art,”President Vladimir Putin wrote in an official letter of greetings saluting LAERC and RIFF.
“This year, for the first time in many years, American cinemagoers will have a unique chance to get to know better Russian film classics and works by contemporary Russian directors,” Russian Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi joined in his own message to the participants and guests of the Hollywood event. “I’m really pleased to realize that the event’s program will go beyond screenings only. I’m sure that the exhibitions of posters and photo displays to be held on the fringes of the upcoming festival will be of interest to American filmmakers and regular cinemagoers as well.”
First Deputy Culture Minister Denis Molchanov: “The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation sees the Los Angeles Exhibition of Russian Cinema as a key element of the system of events aimed at promoting Russian cinema abroad.”
Film director and producer Francis Ford Coppola: “My advice to filmmakers and filmgoers everywhere is not to miss out on this one of a kind festival of best Russian films…”
“The Russian cinema has had a considerable influence on moviemakers everywhere,” says Christian Gains, Director of Festival Programs with the AFI. This collection is a rare treat for cinema lovers everywhere. The Institute is happy to be taking part in the organization of this festival which, in its turn, is part of our international cinema cooperation boosting program.”
“The festival that is now ongoing in America will offer the world film capital a first-ever look at virtual cross-section of great Russian films which have inspired the Russian cinema going public from he very start of our film industry as part of an ongoing effort to promote the Russian cinematic tradition,” said RIFF President Stas Namin.
Along with Stas Namin, the first Russian international film festival was co-chaired by Seven Arts Productions President and co-Director Danny Diante, and Cathy Fisher. The organizers see the Russian International Film Festival in Los Angeles as an annual event showcasing Russian film evergreens and ones representing the most promising trends existing in contemporary Russian cinema. The festival’s program is very diverse running the gamut from such masterpieces of Soviet silent films as Bed and Sofa by Abram Room, Jewish Happiness by Alexei Granovsky, By the Law, by Lev Kuleshov, Ivan the Tterrible and Battleship Potyomkin by Sergei Eisenstein, to the world-renowned film classics – The Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky, Cranes Are Flying by Mikhail Kalatozov, The DiamondArm by Leonid Gaidai, White Sun of the Desert by Vladimir Motyl, An UnfinishedPiece for the Mechanical Piano by Nikita Mikhalkov etc.
The festival also unveiled a documentaries program from the 1920s classic ManWith a Camera by Dziga Vertov all the way to The Great Patriotic War by Roman Karmen.
Russian animation films were presented by two programs: pre-Disney animation by Vladislav Starevich, Zenon Komisarenko, Mikhail Tsekhanovsky and others as well as ones by Fyodor Khitruk and Yuri Norshtein which have already gained the status of modern-age classics.
Some of the films screened during the Los Angeles festival were presented by leading Russian and American filmmakers and producers.
Prominent American movie director and producer Peter Bogdanovich unveiled the Ballad of a Soldier by Grigory Chukhrai;
Jakov Sklyanski presented to the ArcLight audience Alexei German’s film Check Up on the Road that he shot as the Director of Photography;
Director Mikhail Vartanov the author of the Paradzanov. The LastAutumn documentary and a close friend of Sergei Paradzhanov introduced two of Mr. Paradzhanov’s films: The Legend of Suram Fortress and Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors;
Author and scriptwriter Rustam Ibragimbekov who wrote the script for Vladimir Motyl’s White Sun of the Desert film unveiled it film to the audience;
Famous actor and director Alexander Kalyagin presented An Unfinished Piecefor the Mechanical Piano by Nikita Mikhalkov he stars in;
Film historian Naum Kleiman, a leading expert of Eisenstein, presented two of Eisenstein’s evergreens: Battleship Potemkin and The Strike;
Warner Brothers executive David Sagal and his sister, famed Hollywood celebrity Cathy Sagal, spoke before the screening of mark Donskoy’s Gorky’s Childhood starring their uncle Daniil Sagal, and recounted the history of their family.
The festival was attended by thousands of cinemagoers, among them local university and film school students, film industry reps, producers, directors and ordinary people. The event also ignited the local Russian-speaking community who literally thronged the presentations of St. Jorgen’s Holiday by Yakov Protazanov, The Cranes Are Flying by Mikhail Kalatozov, The Mirror by Andrei Tarkovsky and of Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein. The silent films presented as part of the festival were viewed to live accompaniment by Russian musicians.
All the participants and guests were handed gift kits of festival booklets, T-shirts, posters bearing the festival’s logo, albums and books about Russian cinema and a one of a kind Russian- and English-language catalog compiled and published expressly for the festival.
The festival opened on April 18. Russia’s First Deputy Culture Minister Denis Molchanov and Congressman Howard Berman ( California) spoke at the opening ceremony where Mr. Molchanov read out an official letter from Russia President Vladimir Putin saluting LAERC and RIFF.
Andrei Konchalovsky ’s The House of Fools premiered that night as part of the 21st Century Russian Cinema program. The House of Fools, the winner of two awards at the Venice Film Festival, including the Big Jury prize, was presented at RIFF 2003 by Paramount Classics.
Paramount Classics directors David Dinerstein and Ruth Vitale introduced the film’s director Andrei Konchalovsky and the lead actress, Ms. Yulia Vysotskaya. In his address, Mr. Konchalovsky underscored the importance of a Russian film festival being held in Hollywood praising what he described as Stas Namin’s “incredible achievement”. After seeing the movie, the guests moved into the popular Knitting Factory concert hall on Hollywood Boulevard, next to the famous Kodak Theater for an opening banquet and concert.
During his closing night speech April 24, Mr. Geffrey Prang, the Mayor of West Hollywood welcomed the first annual Russian film festival praising its work and stressing the significance of annual showcases of the best Russian films in the world cinema capital, Hollywood. Mr. Prang presented Mr. Namin with a City of West Hollywood Commendation Certificate and pledged maximum help in the organization of the annual Russian film festivals there.
During the closing ceremony several leading American filmmakers were presented with Tower Awards “for contribution to world cinema”.
Mr. Alexander Kalyagin , People’s Artist of Russia, President of the Union of Theater and Actors, artistic director of the Et cetera theater company presented Ms. Ivana Chubbuck, the famous acting teacher whose list of grateful students includes the likes of Brad Pitt, Jim Kerry, Rene Russo, John Voigt, Claudia Schiffer, David Duhovny, Adrian Paul and others, the RIFF Tower Award for her Contribution to the Arts;
Mr. Naum Kleiman , Director of the Museum of Russian Cinema and a film historian, presented Mr. Francis Ford Coppola, film director and producer, the RIFF Tower Award for his Contribution to the Arts. Mr. Peter Hoffman of 7 Arts Pictures accepted the award on behalf of Mr. Coppola. Mr. Hoffman read an official letter from Mr. Coppola for the acceptance speech.
Mr. Denis Molchanov , the First Deputy Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation presented the festival’s award to the popular American actor Leonardo diCaprio.
Mr. Rustam Ibragimbekov , screenwriter and President of Confederation of Unions of Cinematographers of Republics of the former USSR presented Mr.William Friedkin, film director, the RIFF Tower Award for his Contribution to the Arts. Mr. William Friedkin, after accepting the award, then went on to speak briefly about the influence of Russian film on Western cinema and announced the closing night film to be screened, Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible, Parts One and two.
The presentation was followed by a reception and concert at the prestigious S.I.R. concert center on Sunset Boulevard.
YOUNG FILMMAKERS FORUM
Films made by young Russian film directors were presented by the directors and actors of the films at the LA Film School as part of the 21 st century Russian film program held on the fringes of the official festival screenings at ArcLight. Presented there were movies by young Russian directors Natalya Petrova, IlyaKhotinenko, Alexander Shein and others. Kirill Razlogov, Russia’s main film critic and expert on Russian movies, Director of the Russian Institute of Cultural Research, presented the young film directors to the audience and hosted Q&As about the films afterwards.
CULTURAL PROGRAM, ART EXHIBITIONS
Formula One , a popular Russian band played at both the opening and closing ceremonies as well jamming in the courtyard of the ArcLight during the festival.
Mr. Boris Grebenshchikov , a legendary Russian singer-songwriter, played at the opening party, offered a one-man show at a private party at Le Doux caf? and at a party devoted to the 300 th birthday of St. Petersburg where he was awarded with a plaque from the Sister Cities of St. Petersburg for his Contribution to the Arts.
Mr. Sergei Starostin , a popular Russian folk singer, performed at the Closing party, along with American musicians especially invited for occasion.
Several exhibitions were held at ArcLight and LA Film School during the festival:
- ArcLight exhibited a collection of rare Eisenstein photos and drawings on lease from Russia’s Film Museum. The exhibits are part of Eisenstein’s contribution to Russian culture and are a flurry of themes and styles. It was the first time the collection was exhibited in the US in full.
- Rare copies of early 20 th century film posters. Many posters by renowned artists A. Rodchenko, G. Stenberg, V. Stengerg and A. Lavinsky displayed are prime examples of turn-of-the-century Russian constructivism and avant-garde. The collection features posters of Russian and American films being screened in Russia in the early-1920s.
- Unique photo exhibitions reflectingthelife and work of the outstanding Russian directors – Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Eisenstein. The photographs were courtesy of the Andrei Trakovsky Fund and the Russian Film Museum .
THE FESTIVAL’S BOARD OF CONSULTANTS
On the Russian side, the Board features Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Mikhail Shvydkoi, First Deputy Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Denis Molchanov, Deputy Press Minister of the Russian Federation Vladimir Grigoryev, ORT General Director Konstantin Ernst, and RIFF President Stas Namin. On the American side, the Board members were Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti, Miramax Films President Harvey Weinstein, Seven Arts Pictures President Peter Hoffman, Telluride Film Festival Co-Director and Zoetrope Producer in San Francisco, Tom Luddy, Montecito Picture Company Co-Chairman and Executive Producer Tom Pollack .