The director's chair of the 9th Vyborg Film Festival (11-18 August) has been left vacant this year in homage to former festival director and highly respected Russian film director Savva Kulish who passed away in June of this year.

Kulish whose career spanned more than 30 years had lately turned his talents to documentaries. He was best known internationally for his Cold War era features like the spy drama The Dead Season.

Vyborg annually offers the most comprehensive selection of Russia's recent film production with competition sections for new features, documentaries and animation. The festival will open with the world premier of director Gary Bardin's new animated film Chucha 2 and close with Sergei Bodrov Jr's Sisters. This year a special Homage to Savva Kulish will also screen a selection of his best known work.

New projects will also be presented as works in progress by directors Yuri Grymov (Mastermind), Boris Blank (Miracles And That's It) and Sergei Potemkin (The City Without A Sun). A round table will examine the problems of the Russian cinema industry over the last ten years.

The festival kicks off with the opening gala at its new headquarters the newly refurbished 400 seat cinema owned by Paradise Cinema. Paradise, which also distributes theatrical product has become one of the fastest-growing new players on the Russian exhbition scene having opened of state-of-the art cinemas in Moscow, Sochi, Yerevan, St Petersburg and Kaliningrad over the past three years. The opening of its new five screen complex in Moscow in September will bring the number of screens in its chain to twelve.