Kirill Serebrennikov's Playing The Victimwon the Grand Prix at this year's Open Russian Film Festival Kinotavr at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The black comedy about a university graduate who earns money playingcrime victims in the reconstruction of events for police investigations was abig favourite with the festival's foreign guests andshared the Guild of Russian Film Critics' White Elephant prize with Alexander Veledinsky's Alive.

Accepting the prizes on behalf of Serebrennikov,producers Natalia Mokritskayaand Uliana Savelieva saidthat they were pleased with the critics' reception of the film and reportedthat the film had opened strongly since its release by West Company on June 9.

According to jury chairman producer/writer/director RustamIbragimbekov, the prizes this year were decided after"intense heated discussion", but did not smack of compromise, although somewould have perhaps liked to have seen some recognition for Yuri Moroz's hard-hitting drama The Spot set in the world of prostitutes on the streets of Moscow.

Alexei Balabanov's It Doesn't Hurt picked up the two Best Acting Awards for Renata Litvinova and Alexander Yatsenko, while Koktebel co-director Boris Khlebnikovwas named Best Director for his new feature FreeFloating.

The prize for Best Debut went to writer-director AvdotyaSmimova for her love story Relations, which was produced by Alexei Uchitelfor whom she wrote three screenplays including the 2003 film The Stroll.

The jury's other prizes were: Best Screenplay to Igor Porubliov and Alexander Veledinskyfor Alive; Best Music to Andrei Sigle for his score of KonstantinLopushansky's mystical thriller The Ugly Swans; and a Special Diploma to the writer-director Ivan Vyrypaev for his romantic drama Euphoria.

Now in its second year as a platform for Russian cinema after droppingthe previous international competition section, Kinotavrhas established itself as the leading meeting place for the Russian filmcommunity as well as for foreign festival programmers, critics and buyers lookingfor the latest productions. As one of the festival organizers said, the 2006edition was "the year of premieres" since 14 of the 15 competition filmsreceived their world premieres in Sochi.

This year also saw Kinotavr expanding the filmbusiness dimension of the festival with a series of industry events over thenine days.

More than 120 screenwriters-directors applied to participate in thefirst pitching event to be held in Russia. Ten writers werethen selected to present their projects to a circle of leading producersincluding Sergei Selyanov (CTB Film Company),Alexander Rodnyansky (CTC Media), and Mira Todorvskaya (Mirabel Film).

Moreover, the Club of European Producers brought a small delegation to Sochi, including Egoli Tossell Film's Jens Meurer, Rezo Films' Laurent Danielou, Artemis Productions' Andre Logieand Phantom Pictures' Andreas Bajohra to explore thepotential for co-production with Russian counterparts.

While the West European participants were keen to find ways ofworking with Russian filmmakers, the general tenor coming from the Russianproducers was that the growing popularity of Russian films with local audiencesand the plethora of financial resources meant that they did not relyon co-productions for financing or on foreign markets for recouping theirbudgets.

Alexander Atanesyan, producer of theco-production Mute Witness at thebeginning of the 1990s, remarked: 'I think that our meeting with theEuropean producers has come 15 years too late', while Alexander Rodnyansky suggested that the Russian film industry shouldfirst give priority to consolidating its position with localaudiences by making films that addressing their needs and interests .

Producers of commercial mainstream fare might be able to afford such aninsular position, but other Russian players told that collaboration was definitely sought withWestern partners for projects in the arthouse sphere.Thus, over two days, the Club of European Producers was able to organise one-to-one meetings with such producers as Sergey Selyanov, who was looking for partners to board Baksy, the nextproject by Schizo director GukaOmarova, Alla Karina, co-producer of Midsummer Madness, and Mira Todorovskayawho was pitching $4m historical drama Iosif And Nadezhda by Oleg Massaryginabout Joseph Stalin's wife Nadezhda Allilueva.

In addition, Kinotavr's international profilewas enhanced this year by the presence of such industry figures as Cannes FilmMarket's Jerome Paillard, the BerlinaleCoproduction Market's Martina Bleiss,Holland Film Meeting's Ellis Driessen, SofiaMeeting's Mira Staleva, Belgrade B2B's Misha Mogorovic, and the PolishFilm Institute's Maciej Karpinski.