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43rd Moscow International Film Festival wins over COVID times

Kirill Razlogov program director of the Moscow Film Festival (with Bruno Chatelin)

This year’s program inevitably reflects the uncertainties in the cinematic process itself. Now and again filmmakers in different countries went to extremes. The extreme situation of the Pandemic and the lockdown prompted extreme aesthetic and anti-aesthetic choices, unexpected semantic collisions, heightened by the creators’ polonged isolation. It would be naïve and arrogant to propose a way of looking at more than 200 films of different epochs and genres as a single whole. I’ll briefly single out some energy fields determining the selection of films for the 43rd MIFF (running April 22 - 29).
The central films in the Competition, which has always been our priority, directly address critical situations in the cinematic life itself.
In Last «Dear Bulgaria Alexei Fedorenko with his typical irony and Mikhail Zoschenko’s self-deprecation (he is the author of the literary original and the character at the center of the search) brings us back to the key period in the history of Soviet multinational cinema when central studios were evacuated to Asia. Eisenstein, who is only alluded to in this film, unexpectedly comes back to the audience in the German Bloodsuckers – A Marxist Vampire Comedy with its derisive movie thrash style.
The Russian theme of the search for a missing cosmonaut in Northern China unexpectedly surfaces in Café By The Highway in the hopeless but exquisite visuals of the snow-covered expanses. 
The paradoxical structure of the Cuban futurist parable Blue Heart reflects the sound and fury of the modern world and its chaotic representation in newsfeeds and on TV. Next to it is the tragic fresco of a real disaster at the sea in “El ventre del mar” a movie by the modern Catalonian classic Agustí Villaronga, where characters involuntarily turn into cannibals which prompts cheerless philosophical reflections. By contrast the Romanian “#Dogpoopgirl” mercilessly exposes the omnipotence of modern social networks capable of destroying anybody for no reason.
In the more traditional vein authors focus on gender, passion and family collisions. The Iranian The Son, the Japanese “Women”, another Italian adaptation of Alberto Moravia’s Time Of Indifference give different perspectives on the relations between sexes and generations in the context of their national cultures. The Norwegian movie “He” stands out. A rare combination of keen social observations, commonplace situations and psychological precision turn it into a diagnosis of the terminally ill contemporary society.
We shall wrap up this summary, which as yet will have to be corrected and enlarged, with a movie by the Indian director Don Palathara Joyful Mystery which links the relevance of the lockdown (the action takes place entirely within a car and fits into one single shot) with a kind of modern fantasy on the biblical Annunciation.
This modest low-budget movie from Kerala where socialist illusions are still honored, demonstrates that this program of the MIFF, which might at first look like a picture of total chaos, brings together epochs, cultures and generations and can pull out from the human subconscious the image of unified Cosmos.
Movies in the main competition are supposed to complement two other traditional competition programs – of documentaries and of shorts. The first one is of special importance as it has been designated among few others a preliminary selections center for non-fiction “Oscars”. This decision was taken with the support of Michael Apted, President of the Guild of Directors, who died earlier this year. To commemorate his memory we are screening the director’s last documentary and offering a short retrospective of his features including Coal Miner's Daughter which had seven Oscar nominations. Some time ago when I was in Hollywood selecting films I could not persuade the producers to let us screen this film in the MIFF Competition.
Just like earlier, this year’s program of documentary masterpieces “Free Thought” will be in the center of the viewers’ attention as well as a small selection of pilots and first episodes from the newest series.
The competition of shorts and the accompanying out-of-competition program are especially important in the current situation. After we had to give up the Perspectives program, the shorts became a major, although unconventional, mirror reflecting the emergence of new talent. I believe we are witnessing the birth of a new era in screen culture which will be dominated by minimalist forms from TikTok to Youtube. The shorts represented by a special selection of animated films, are becoming the focal point of the aesthetic trends in screen art and its social significance. The special program “Inverted Perspective” will be a major event, it will be devoted to the alumni of the master of national directing Alexandr Sokurov.
It does not mean that we are forgetting the past. This year’s program is rich in retrospectives: one of them is devoted to the explosive couple “Yves Montan – Simone Signoret”, another is “Italian cinema. The Return of the Classics”. And finally the anniversary “Razlogov’s Choice”. They all combine to restore and enrich the connections between epochs. Largely the same topics are addressed by personal programs prepared by my colleagues from the Selections Committee Andrei Plakhov, Peter Shepotinnik and Stas Tyrkin, who have chosen contemporary material.
In keeping with the trends of our time a significant place is taken by women directors. In addition to Anjelica Artykh’s traditional program we will be showing two retrospectives from China and Israel which will enrich our viewers’ knowledge about feminist processes in screen art in different parts of the world. This wide international panorama will also be presented in the cycle “Around the World”.
Kirill Razlogov
Program Director of the Moscow International Film Festival

 

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