Alexander Kott’s love story [pictured] awarded the Grand Prix and the prize for best cinematography.

Alexander Kott’s Test was the big winner at this year’s Kinotavr Open Russian Film Festival at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

The jury headed by Cannes prize-winner Andrey Zvyagintsev awarded its Grand Prix “for the realisation of the dream” and the prize for best cinematography to Kott’s love story, set against the first hydrogen bomb tests in the Kazakh Steppe at the beginning of the 50s.

In addition, Kott’s film received the Elephant Trophy from the Guild of Film Critics and Film Scholars.

Test is handled internationally by Anton Mazurov’s fledgling Russian sales company Ant!pode Sales & Distribution, which saw its other three new titles by four women directors coming away from this year’s Kinotavr with trophies and diplomas in their luggage:

  • Anna Melikian’s Star received the prizes for best direction and best actress (Severija Janusauskaite)
  • Svetlana Proskurina’s Goodbye Mom - best film music
  • Nigina Saifullayeva’s debut Whatayacallme - Special Diploma of the Jury “for the gentle spirit and artistic integrity”

The decisions by the Main Competition’s jury thus recognised the talent among the growing number of women directors working in Russian cinema.

Indeed, as artistic director Sitora Alieva had noted ahead of this year’s edition, a “feminisation” of Russian film was underway when eight of the Main Competition titles were by women.

Moreover, Oksana Bychkova’s Another Year picked up the best actor prize for the performance by Alexey Filimonov.

In addition, Ivan I. Tverdovsky was awarded the prize for best debut and the award from the Distributors’ Jury for his first feature Corrections Class.

Yuri Bykov’s third feature to compete in Sochi, Fool, received the prize for best screenplay and a Diploma from the Guild of Film Critics and Film Scholars “for its uncompromising artistic message”.

Grand Prix of Short Film Competition

Meanwhile, blockbuster director Zhora Kryzhovnikov (Kiss Them All) was the winner of Kinotavr’s Shorts Competition with his New Year black comedy Unintentionally about a granny and her telly.

The short was produced by Igor Tolstunov’s ProFIT with Film Company Chapula Bey and Toomuch Production, but Kryzhovnikov could not come to Sochi to accept his prize in person as he is already shooting the sequel to Kiss Them All - Gorko! 2.

Actor Grigory Dobrygin (A Most Wanted Man) picked up two prizes for his second short, as a director, Verpackungen: the Special Diploma of the Jury “for the high level of direction” and the Guild of Film Critics and Film Scholars’ Elephant.

Shot on location in Wandlitz near Berlin with a largely German crew including DoP Jörg Weber and production designer Erwin Prib, Dobrygin’s film about the order of things includes the Romanian actor George Pistereanu who starred in Florin Serban’s If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle which competed at the Berlinale in 2010 when Dobrygin was there with Alexey Popogrebsky’s How I Ended This Summer.

The Metrafilms production also features popular Russian actor Sergey Makovetsky, the star of Jos Stelling’s Duska, and Berlin Schaubühne actor Bernardo Arias Porras Who made a cameo appearance in David N. Wnendt’s Wetlands.

Among the other prizes, the main jury gave a Special Diploma to Anna Melikian’s About Love 2 “for a wonderful, wonderful film”.

Pitching prizes

A jury of leading Russian film industry figures, including Kinotavr president Alexander Rodnyansky and producer Sergey Selyanov, decided on the winners of the best pitches in the fiction and documentary categories at Kinotavr’s pitching forum.

The best fiction project came from producer Elena Glikman and director Edward Bordukov’s $1.7m football film Korobka, which is looking for post-production support as well as TV and theatrical distribution.

Producer Dorota Roshkovska and director Olga Korotkaya’s documentary Singing was chosen as the best documentary project.

The RUB3.9m project, about the Siberian Tuvan people’s tradition of throat singing being opened up to women after previously being an exclusively male domain, was in Sochi to look for Russian co-producers and financing.