Uberto Pasolini’s second feature [pictured] wins at fifth edition of Russian showcase for young European cinema.

Uberto Pasolini’s Still Life was the big winner at the fifth edition of VOICES, the Russian showcase for young European cinema, which came to a close on Tuesday evening [July 8] in Vologda.

Pasolini’s second feature as director won the Grand Prix and the award for best actor went to the film’s male lead Eddie Marsan in an “absolutely wonderful performance”.

Jury president Svetlana Proskurina said that the decision for the Grand Prix had been “absolutely unanimous”, while VOICES art director Korinna Danielou recalled that having Still Life at the festival had been “a dream come true” for her.

She accepted the award on behalf of Pasolini who had left Vologda on the midnight train to Moscow last Sunday [July 6] on the way to present his film at the festival in Karlovy Vary.

The jury’s award for best cinematography went to Kseniya Sreda for her work on Vladimir Beck’s Skinless which had won the Grand Prix at the national Russian festival for first-time film-makers earlier this year.

An award for the acting ensemble in the Dutch film Wolf by Jim Taihuttu was presented instead of an award for best actress, while the Czech director Jiri Madl received a special prize given by the Gorky Film Studio for his feature debut, the comedy To See the Sea.

Meanwhile, the festival-goers voted to give the Audience Award this year to Maciej Pieprzyca’s drama Life Feels Good. This was particularly appropriate given that Poland will be the guest country at the sixth edition of VOICES in 2015.

Apart from the film programme, the festival featured masterclasses in Vologda’s Kremlin with director Igor Voloshin and screenwriter Vsevolod Korshunov, as well as NFTS director Nik Powell.

Powell, in his function as executive producer from Scala Productions, was also in Vologda along with Berlin-based producer Jelena Goldbach of Wostok to meet with potential partners for the planned UK-Russian co-production of the road movie comedy Passing Clouds (working title) by Tatiana Korol. 

Anti-obscenity law threatens “stagnation” for Russian festivals

Concerns about the negative effect of Russia’s new anti-obscenity law on its film festivals has spread to the Ministry of Culture as VOICES was forced at the last minute to pull its screening of Valeria Gai Germanika’s Yes and Yes and cancel the visit of the lead actress Agniya Kuznetsova.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Ministry said that it “shares the disquiet about the situation surrounding the distribution certificates for those films which are not planning a commercial release”.

“It’s definite that the compulsory receipt of distribution certificates for all films without exception and the administrative responsibility for the violation of these norms can lead in the long term to a sharp reduction in non-commercial screenings,” the Ministry said. “In the first instance - in the regions of the country.”

The Ministry indicated that it would “attentively” analyse the law’s “practical application and influence on festival activities”.

This came after Sitora Alieva, programme director of the Kinotavr Open Russian Film Festival in Sochi, told Gazeta.ru that “the new demands introduce chaos, confusion and absolute stagnation in the festival movement”.

“The films come to the Kinotavr festival straight from the laboratory,” she explained. “We are the first and main platform for Russian cinematography, which offers a film its first encounter with the audience, the professionals and the critics.”

However, the requirement that every domestic Russian film - including short films and for retrospectives - would have to provide evidence of a distribution certificate before submission to the festival would make running it impossible.

Another unnamed Russian festival organiser told Gazeta.ru that the law would “paralyse the work of festivals and the movement of festivals and cinema clubs completely”.

“This law is a veiled attempt at censorship,” the festival organiser declared.

Meanwhile, Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Cannes prize-winner Leviathan has been granted a distribution certificate for theatrical release in Russia later this year with an 18+ rating linked to removal of the obscene language.

The Green Prince sold to Russia

Nadav Schirman’s documentary The Green Prince, which won the Audience Award in the Documentary Competition at last week’s Moscow International Film Festival, has been sold by Global Screen to Russian distributor Arena Film.

The real-life story about the son of a top Hamas leader serving as an Israeli spy on his own people has also been sold to the UK (Curzon), Australia/New Zealand (Madman Entertainment), Canada (Mongrel Media), Poland (Against Gravity), Taiwan (Swallow Wings) and, in collaboration with Submarine, to the US where the film will be released by Musicbox on Sept 12.

The release by Shani Films in Israel has made The Green Prince the most watched documentary of the year. Rapid Eye Movies plans to open the film in Germany on Nov 12.