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Russian Films in London

Comedy and drama share billing at 7th Russian Film Festival.

Published: November 20, 2013 (Issue # 1787)



  • Winter Journey directed by Sergei Taramayev and Liubov Lvova took top honors at the 7th Russian Film Festival.
    Photo: For SPT

The 7th Russian Film Festival organized and hosted by the Academia Rossica concluded its eclectic ten-day banquet of contemporary Russian cinema on Nov. 17 with a closing ceremony at the May Fair Hotel in London. The yearly festival brought together a choice selection of the best and most recent in contemporary Russian cinema, documentary and animation to U.K. audiences and Russian expats in London.

For many of those attending, perhaps understandably unfamiliar with the state of the independent film scene in Russia but curious to see for themselves a piece of the abstruse Russian soul away from media headlines of Sochi, Putin and Pussy Riot, the question of what Russian contemporary cinema has to offer was perhaps uppermost in their minds.

Despite the fact that Russias historic contribution to world cinema has been substantial, with names such as Eisenstein, Tarkovsky and Kalatozov easily conjured by the cinephile, Russian cinema remains a fringe of sorts.

Russian comedy films in particular are in need of a resurgence. Indeed, dramas exploring the more intense and strained side of the human lot is what Russia is best known for. The fact that Russian humour can also be difficult for foreign audiences makes it a hard sell. So much so, that during the festival screenings Russian members of the audiences laughed at different scenes than the non-Russian speakers in attendance.

But it was comedy that opened the festival. Bite The Dust, directed by Taisia Igumentseva, is the product of her winning first prize at last years Cinéfondation in Cannes. The film is set in a small rural Russian village where the matter-of-fact announcement of an impending massive coronal emission that will wipe out all but ten percent of humanity leaves the bafflingly unfazed neighbors no better option than to mark their last night on earth with a traditional Russian banquet. Repressed desires for the neighbors spouse, self-resignation to circumstance and personal loss from each characters pasts are suddenly allowed expression during this now-or-never evening.

Winter Journey, directed by Sergei Taramaev and Liubov Lvova, is a controversial and brave film that tells the story of a young classical singer Erik (Aleksei Frandetti), who is preparing to sing an excerpt from Schuberts Winterreise for an important audition, and whose life changes when he meets Lyokha (Evgeny Tkachuk), a pretty criminal from the provinces with an alarmingly self-destructive disposition teetering on the psychotic. The relationship between the two develops over the three days in which the film is set, as Lyokha becomes acquainted with Eriks world amid the underground gay scene populated by unsavoury middle class professionals, a world apart from Lyokhas life of homelessness on Moscows streets.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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