35th edition of the festival runs June 19-28.

The US documentary Red Army about the Soviet Red Army hockey team will open the 36th edition of the Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF), which runs from June 19-28.

Directed by Gabe Polsky, the film was first shown at last month’s Cannes Film Festival and will be released in the US by Sony Pictures.

Speaking at this week’s press conference, programme director Kirill Razlogov exxplained that documentaries have always played “a special role” at the festival - “documentaries are practically in all of the programmes” - and said that it was “symbolic” to open with a documentary.

The festival will be rounded off on June 28 at the Pushkinsky Cinema with a screening of Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Veteran Russian actor-director Gleb Panfilov (Vassa) will head the international jury for the main competition and will be joined by the German actress Franziska Petri, Georgian director Levan Koguashvili, Mauretanian film-maker Abderrahmane Sissako and French sales agent Laurent Danielou of Rezo Films.

Petri, who played the female lead in Kirill Serebrennikov’s Venice 2012 film Betrayal (Izmena), was a member of the international jury at last year’s Odessa International Film Festival as well as the juries for Wiesbaden’s goEast and Tallinn’s Black Nights Film Festival.

The main competition line-up of 16 films are:

  • A Most Wanted Man - dir: Anton Corbijn (UK, USA, Germany)
  • Beti and Amare - dir: Andy Siege (Romania, USA, Spain, Canada, Germany, Ethiopia)
  • Brothers. The Final Confession - dir: Victoria Trofimenko (Ukraine)
  • Dreamland - dir: Petra Volpe (Switzerland/Germany)
  • Eye Am - dirs: Hakki Kurtulus and Melik Saracoglu (Turkey)
  • Hardcore Disco - dir: Krzysztof Skonieczny (Poland)
  • Haven - dir: Amikam Kovner (Israel)
  • My Man - dir: Kazuyoshi Kumakiri (Japan)
  • Paris Follies - dir: Marc Fitoussi (France)
  • Reporter - dir: Thijs Gloger (The Netherlands)
  • The Avian Kind - dir: Shin Younshick (South Korea)
  • The Sentimentalists - dir: Nicholas Triandafyllidis (USA)
  • The Whole Shebang - dir: Doris Dörrie (Germany)
  • Unripe Pomegranates - dir: Majid-Reza Mostafavi (Iran)
  • White Yagel - dir: Vladimir Tumayev (Russia)
  • Yes and Yes - dir: Valeria Gai Germanika (Russia)

Tymaev’s psychological drama White Yagel was added to the competition titles at the last moment.

According to Russian press reports, Razlogov admitted that there had been “rather a lot of refusals” by foreign producers to have their films screen in Moscow.

“But there weren’t any direct references to sanctions,” he added. “Somebody referred to the illness of the granny, but we have the slight suspicion that the refusal was not only motivated by the granny’s illness.”

He argued that other major film festivals were faced with similar situations where they didn’t always get the films they would like to screen: “People are busy, they are working and therefore there are, of course, many refusals.”

From Ealing to Zanussi

As part of the ongoing celebrations for the UK-Russian Year of Culture, MIFF is presenting a selection of Ealing comedies from the legendary Ealing Studios, including Kind Hearts and CoronetsWhisky Galore and Passport to Pimlico, with the assistance of the BFI.

Other sidebars include an homage to the recently departed Vladimir Dmitriev, head of the Gosfilmofond film archive, new trends in Latin American cinema in Anima Latina, a showcase of German cinema’s so-called “Berlin School”, new Russian productions, including the Kinotavr winners Goodbye Mama and Another Year as well as Vilnius prize-winner, and a retrospective dedicated to the veteran Polish director Krzysztof Zanussi.

Visitors to next week’s festival will have plenty to talk about outside of the screening rooms, as well.

Razlogov announced that the Cannes prize-winner Leviathan will not be shown in the competition programme or the official MIFF programme “for legal reasons”, but there will be a special screening organised in the October Cinema, the festival’s main venue.

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s fourth feature film has been the subject of mounting controversy about the Russian government’s new anti-obscenity law which comes into effect from July 1.

According to the new legislation, Leviathan’s producers would have to edit the obscenities out of the film if they wanted to release the film this autumn as planned. But the director had suggested last month in Cannes that the new law could not be applied in retrospect to films produced beforehand.

The issue took another turn on Wednesday when Vladimir Tolstoy, President Putin’s adviser on cultural affairs, said in a briefing that a total ban would “not be normal” and imagined that Zvyagintsev’s film could be excluded from the legislation.

“Knowing Zyagintsev, I am sure that every word there is justified by the author’s plan,” he declared.

Kleiman and Tchaikovsky

In addition, controversy has flared up again over the Russian Ministry of Culture’s treatment of the internationally respected film historian Naum Kleiman whose contract as head of the Moscow State Central Cinema Museum comes to an end on June 30.

News that the 76-year-old Eisenstein expert Kleiman had just received a telegram informing him of the end of his contract (which had been extended by a year from last June) had brought his supporters onto the barricades that this was in effect a dismissal.

The Ministry refuted such claims by explaining that such a telegram was “a mere formality” which applied to all those under contracts.

Kleiman was a member of Venice Film Festival’s jury in 1991 and the Berlinale’s International Jury in 1993.

And another development which will have topical relevance for the Moscow Business Square’s panel on biopics is the news that director Kirill Serebrennikov and his producer Sabina Yeremeyeva have decided to return the RUB 30m allocated to them last year by the Ministry of Culture for the planned film on the life of Russian composer Piotr Tchaikovsky.

Speaking to Interfax, the producer said that she had been “grateful” for the Ministry’s cooperation but, at some point, that they had realised that the film – with a planned budget of RUB 240m – could not be made without the support of the Russian Cinema Fund (Fond Kino).

A decision had therefore been made to put the project on hold and look for private funding, including from abroad where there was already interest in investing in the film.