Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent is to host its first international film festival this October organised by the Uzbekkino National Agency and the Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan.

The Tashkent International Festival of Contemporary Cinema will be held from Oct 19-25 and have competition sections for feature films, shorts and animation.

The Grand Prix for the best feature film – the Golden Guepard – refers to the world’s fastest running animal which has historical roots in Uzbek culture. The guepard used to be part of the coat of arms of the House of Rulers of Chach, an ancient name for Tashkent.

According to the organisers, the main strategic goal of the festival project is to “build and develop an intercultural dialogue among the nations of the world through cinema art” as well as “consolidate and develop international links in cinema, particularly with Asian countries who are Uzbekistan’s prospective partners in cinema development.”

Apart from wishing to familiarize local Uzbek audiences with leading contemporary films and to discover and promote young talented filmmakers, the festival will be looking “to contribute to the development and popularization of national cinema, promote and advocate Uzbek films” and “to present Uzbekistan’s unique historical legacy to attract representatives of the global cinema industry.”

In addition to the competitive sections, the festival’s programme will include films shown out of competition, a retrospective, masterclasses, roundtables and a forum for promoting co-productions.

Speaking at Wednesday’s roundtable on the current state and perspectives of the film industry in the CIS, Georgia and Baltic states at the Moscow Business Square, Umarov Ahmadzhon, director of Uzbekkino, reported that there was currently a boom in national production in Uzbekistan: 119 local films were produced in 2010 and there is a national market share of 70% at the box office. Cinema tickets are more than twice as expensive for US and European films than for domestic releases.

He noted, however, that there was a problem with the theatrical distribution sector in Uzbekistan, although money had been allocated in the form of credits with low rates of interest towards the modernisation of existing or construction of new cinemas.

The present total of 124 screens might then return to the previous level of over 250.