Russian director Alexander Velidinsky’s The Geographer Drank His Globe Away was the big winner at the 4th Odessa International Film Festival (OIFF).

The tragi-comedy picked up the Grand Prix Golden Duke, voted for by the festival audience, and the International Jury’s Golden Duke for Best Film

The $4m production, which had screened to an enthusiastic capacity audience of over 1,200 in Odessa’s Festival Palace on Thursday evening, is being handled internationally by fledgling Russian sales outfit Antipode Film Sales & Distribution and will be released theatrically in Russia on 400 prints on November 7.

Last month, Velidinsky’s film won the Grand Prix and three other awards at the Kinotavr Open Russian Film Festival in Sochi.

The prize for Best Acting went to the female leads Lika Babluani and Mariam Bokeria of Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross’s In Bloom, which won the main prize at VOICES in Vologda two weeks ago. The Odessa distinction is the first prize awarded to the young Georgian actresses who made their acting debut in In Bloom.

Indian film-maker Ritesh Batra received the prize for Best Director for his Cannes hit The Lunchbox, but could not attend the closing ceremony in person because he was back in India for the national premiere of his film and so thanked the jury and the people of Odessa for their hospitality by video.  

Speaking about the international jury’s decisions, president Alexander Rodnyansky said that they had been taken “within minutes” and were “unanimous”.

This year saw the first presentation of a Golden Duke for Best Ukrainian Feature Film by the festival’s honorary guests, actors Alexander Kuznetsov and Olga Kab, to the biopic Paradjanov by co-directors Olena Fetisova and Serge Avedikian.

Fetisova had developed Paradjanov as a participant of the EU’s EAVE producers training programme and also presented it at last year’s pitching session in Odessa.

After the ceremony, OIFF President Viktoria Tigipko revealed that admissions to screenings had risen by 15% over 2012’s 100,000 total, and there are plans to expand the number of screening venues for the fifth edition which will be held from July 11-19, 2014.

Ukrainian awards

The previous day, the Ukrainian National Film Award jury, headed by UK documentary film-maker and curator Mark Cousins, presented the Golden Duke for Best Short Film to Maxim Ksjonda for 21-minute The Way and a Special Mention for Olexandr Techyns’kyy’s first film Sirs And Misters.

Before announcing the winners of the FIPRESCI awards for best Ukrainian short and feature film, veteran Swedish film-maker/critic Gunnar Bergdahl, on his first visit to the Odessa festival, said that the festival had come of age after just four editions.

Valentyn Vasyanovych’s Credenza was named Best Featurefor “using comedy to emphasize the problems of our time”, while the critics named Ruslan Batytsky’s Ukrainian Lessons Best Short for “its terrible beauty and power of the cinema”.

Best Pitch Award

This year’s €2,500 Best Pitch Award went to Ukrainian powerhouse Directory Films - which has five features and four shorts in production or being completed this year - for the €1.4m drama Stepne by Marina Vroda after previous pitches at Rotterdam’s CineMart and the Moscow Business Square earlier this year.

Producer Igor Savychenko found his two co-producers - France’s Les Films du Poisson and Poland’s Apple Film - in Rotterdam, and the partners are now making applications for finance to the Polish Film Institute, ARTE and CNC as well as the Ukraine State Film Agency for shooting to begin in either winter 2013 or winter 2014.

By coincidence, Les Films du Poisson and Apple Film have previously worked together in Ukraine on Michale Boganim’s Land Of Oblivion, starring Olga Kurylenko.

In addition, a Special Mention was awarded by the expert jury of sales agents Philippe Bober (Coproduction Office) and Eva Diederix (Elle Driver), Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg CEO Kirsten Niehuus, and producer Sergei Selyanov (CTB Company) to director Yaroslav Lodygin and producer Dan Khomutovskiy for their project, the “Eastern” Voroshylovgrad, based on Serhiy Zhadan’s novel.


This year’s expanded Industry Programme included the presentation of 10 “works in progress” as well as the public pitching of 10 feature films by Ukrainian film-makers or ones planned as co-productions with Ukraine.

Visiting producers and funders commented on the wide range of genres on display in this year’s line-up of 10 “works in progress” - from psychological thrillers through comedies to children’s musicals - which is testament to the funding strategy followed by the Ukrainian State Film Agency (USFA) over the past three years to resurrect a production sector “after 20 years of silence”, according to USFA CEO Kateryna Kopylova.

In 2013, USFA will have a budget of €14m and is currently occupied with the drafting of a new cinema law. There are also moves to examine opportunities for attracting local private investors to film financing in Ukraine.

Works in progress

This year’s line-up included Nana Djordjadze’s lyrical comedy Lorelei (working title), which had been shooting in and around Odessa during last year’s festival, and Victor Andrienko’s family film Strong Ivan which was pitched at OIFF’s third edition.

Producer Volodymyr Filippov revealed that his €1.5m production will be released theatrically in Ukraine this October and is being handled internationally by UK-based sales agent Amadeus Entertainment.

Speaking to ScreenDaily in Odessa, Amadeus’ managing director and head of international sales Ivo Fiorenza - who came onboard as sales company after seeing a trailer for the film at the Berlinale - said that he plans to show the film to buyers in a market screening in Toronto in September.

The Pit director returns

Lubomir Levitskiy, who came to international prominence with his 2006 film The Pit (Stolnya), and his producer Andrex Selivanov of Suspense Films, presented extracts from his new film Unforgotten Shadows combining elements of comedy, mystery and adventure.

One Western guest was moved to identify elements of American Pie, Harry Potter and Twilight in the slick looking film whose DoP is the US-born Mark Eberle. The $1m production is scheduled to be released in Ukraine by B&H Distribution on September 19 on 100-140 prints.

Pitching Projects

Two days later, 10 new projects were presented in public pitchings to an audience including the four-person expert jury, and the experiences of the morning session suggested that the event’s organisers would be well advised to arrange pitching training ahead of the presentations in order to concentrate the film-makers’ minds on their projects’ salient points and what they are actually wanting to achieve from the pitching.

Producers Egor Olesov and Natalya Mokritskaya revealed that they have “interest” from Charlotte Rampling to play Eleanor Roosevelt in Sergei Mokritsky’s €3.5m historical drama Battle For Sevastopol about the life of Lyudmila Pavlichenko who killed over 300 Nazis during the Second World War as highly decorated sniper.

Pavlichenko, who enjoyed a friendship lasting 16 years with the First Lady, was the subject of a song written during the Second World War by legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie.

The €3.5m Ukrainian-Russian co-production has received backing from Ukraine’s State Film Agency and the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Culture. Yulia Peresild has been cast in the central role of Pavlichenko, with other parts taken by Nikita Yefremov and Sergei Puskepalis.

Shooting will take place in Sevastapol, Yalta and Moscow, with CGI effects deployed to recreate battle scenes, the atmosphere of the time, and the evacuation of Sevastapol, according to Mokritskaya.

Kostomarov to lense buddy movie

Award-winning Russian cinematographer Pavel Kostomarov is attached to Roman Bondarchuk’s fiction feature debut, the buddy movie Volcano (working title), which would be shot at locations in Hamburg and southernUkraine, working mainly with non-professional actors.

German producer Sebastian Weyland of Hamburg-based Director’s Darling Development, who met Bondarchuk when they entered the Robert Bosch Stiftung’s Co-Production Prize together, explained that the €650,000 project was at the packaging stage and already had a French partner, Xenia Maingot’s EauxVivesProductions, onboard.  They had now come to Odessa to find a third partner either in Russia or Ukraine.

Petri added to Porcupine cast

Producers Biljana Prvanovic of Belgrade-based Delirium and Olga Zhurzhenko of Kiev’s UkrKino announced that Serbian director Srdjan Dragojevic’s next feature, the political thriller/love story/court drama The Porcupine, has added German actress Franziska Petri - who was in Odessa’s International Competition Jury - to its international cast.

The adaptation of the Julian Barnes novel about the public trial of a former president in a post-Soviet state already has Rade Serbedzija attached to play the president and Austrian actor Karl Markovics as the public prosecutor.

The €3.7m  English-language production by the UK’s F&ME, which will be handled internationally by Wild Bunch, will have co-producers and funding from Germany, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and Poland, and will shoot at locations in Bulgaria, Serbia and Ukraine,

Producer Zhurzhenko was also in Odessa to pitch the €3m drama Kai which would be her third collaboration with the writer-director Oleg Sentsov after his 2011 feature debut Gaamer and Rhino, which won the best pitch award in Odessa last year and is currently in production.

Adrien Brody

Ukraine producer Anna Palenchuk of 435 Films revealed that Russian-born, Swiss-based film-maker Elena Hazanova is “in direct talks” with US actor Adrien Brody to play the male lead in her English-language feature debut, the €2m drama Puppet Syndrome, which is an adaptation of Dina Rubina’s bestselling novel of the same name.

The Czech-Swiss-Ukrainian co-production has 70% of the financing in place - including €700,000 from Switzerland’s Federal Office of Culture (BAK) - and would have 60% of the filming in the Czech capital of Prague, with other locations in the Ukraine and possibly Israel.

Hazanova, whose previous features are the 2004 film Love Express and 2006 drama Play On Words: The Interpreter for Oligarch, is also considering Emily Jane Browning for the female lead.

Aktis Film backs epic love story

German sales agent Aktis Film is serving as a co-producer and packaging consultant on writer-director Constantin Werner’s €5m Snow In The Carpathians, an epic love story stretching between the First and Second World Wars between a young officer of the Austro-Hungarian army and a Ukrainian girl.

Werner revealed in Odessa that he has interest in the project from the Austrian production outfit Novotny&Novotny Filmproduktion and already has a US distribution deal in place with Entertainment One.

Old and new partnerships

Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg’s CEO Kirsten Niehuus pointed out during the discussion on funding practices in Eastern and Western Europe that the German-Russian Co-Development Fund is “not active at the moment” because of the present restructuring of the Russian public film funding system. “We hope to reactivate it at the beginning of next year,” she said.

But any hopes of receiving some clarification about the future development of state film funding in Russia were dashed when Viacheslav Telnov, head of the cinema

department at the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Culture, “mysteriously disappeared” between the film funders’ lunch and the panel discussion and failed to join his colleagues on the podium.

The Israel Film Fund’s Katriel Schory explained that negotiations were currently underway with Ukraine and Belarus for co-production treaties to be concluded “hopefully soon”.

The Belarussians are apparently enthusiastic about closer cooperation with Israel and are currently making a fuss about the fact that President Shimon Peres hails from a village now located on Belarus soil.

In addition, Alessandro Gropplero, project manager for Trieste’s When East Meets West co-production forum, told ScreenDaily that the 2014 edition  (Jan 20-22) will bring film professionals from Eastern Europe and Italy together with the focus region of Benelux to discuss the co-production potential of feature films and creative documentaries at the stage of development.