Arts / ‘Meaty’ new Russian film festival

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“Vasilisa”... set at the time of Napoleon's invasion of Russia.
“Vasilisa”… set at the time of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.
MEATY and challenging – that’s the kind of film you can expect to see in the 11th Russian Resurrection Film Festival, coming to Capitol Cinemas in Manuka soon.

This is no lightweight festival. Even as it marks the 90th anniversary of Russia’s first film studio, Mosfilm, with six retrospective movies and 14 new films, the message is clear that cinema is the most powerful modern art form when it comes to telling human stories.

And what stories!

Two of the films I previewed open with a mother in labour. The first, the story of diametrically opposed artists Marc Chagall and Kazimir Malevich, is told against the background of pogroms and revolution in Chagall’s home town Vitebsk. This will be one for visual art lovers interested in the perennial struggle between art for art’s sake and art for social change.

More domestic but no less powerful is Svetlana Proskurina’s film “Goodbye Mum”, which also begins with a birth scene, but focuses on an apparently contemporary crisis as a young boy watches his mother, Anna, leave him for a lover. Anna is willing to leave her husband and their child for another man, but unlike “Anna Karenina”, on which it is loosely based, this story is largely told through the eyes of the father and the son, Seriozha, the same name as the son of Tolstoy’s heroine.

Reaching back to Tolstoy’s own era is the aspirational tale “Vasilisa”, set at the time of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, when serf Vasilisa and her better-born lover Ivan find that war changes everything. Vasilisa becomes the leader of a partisan group while Ivan risks his life in military operations.

Alexander Kott’s “Test” was a big winner at the 2014 Kinotavr Open Russian Film Festival, with judges awarding the prize for best cinematography to this love story, set against the first hydrogen bomb tests in the Kazakh Steppe early in the ‘50s.

Chief among the classics is Akira Kurosawa’s “Dersu Uzala”, winner of the 1976 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and unique in its evocation of the magnificent Siberian wilderness, as an explorer befriends Dersu, a hunter with a soul.

And soul is what characterises this film festival. According to the festival director Nicholas Maksymow, more than 65,000 people have attended Russian Resurrection since it was established in 2003. It just goes to show that good acting and cinematography will always triumph over lightweight cinema.

The 11th Russian Resurrection Film Festival, Capitol Cinemas, Manuka until November 5. Bookings to russianresurrection.com

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