While most people would consider a resort like Cannes or Venice as the ideal location for a major festival, the organisers of a new film festival - to be held mid-winter in Siberia - are hoping to turn that concept on its head.

The new Spirit Of Fire competitive film festival will take place 26 January to 2 February 2003, in the heart of Siberia and its organisers have promised to keep guests warm with traditional Siberian hospitality - and plenty of Russian vodka.

Organised by the city of Khanty-Mansiisk in the in the middle of Russia's largest oil and gas fields, the festival will offer a grand prize of up to $150,000 for the main competition which will consist of 12 to 15 debut features.

There will also be a competition for work completed at film schools and by young filmmakers with an award of up to $5,000 each. The organisers are currently accepting entries for both competitions.

Despite its remote location, the city boasts nine new cinemas with Dolby stereo surround, as well as a major art gallery and cultural centre. A special arts school for talented children attracts major international artists to give master classes on a regular basis.

The festival is headed by veteran Russian film director Sergei Solovyov who is also a former director of the Moscow International Film Festival. He said: "The idea for the festival actually came from Robert De Niro while he was on a visit to Moscow. He asked why we are always holding festivals in Moscow or St Petersburg, why don't we hold a festival in someplace original like Siberia. Probably he was joking, but the idea took root."

"Like most Muscovites I had never been to Khanty Mansiisk and I was amazed when I visited the town. It is in the Siberian taiga and most of the town has been built in the past ten years so it is very modern. Ecologically it is absolutely clean and the surrounding area is a national park. The average age of its citizens is 27 so it is a very lively and youth orientated place."