Beijing International Film Festival Set to Feature Special Russian Cinema Section

A selection of Russian films will screen in-person during the Beijing International Film Festival (BJIFF) through a collaboration with the new Russian Film Festival, part of an effort by both governments to promote Russian cinema in China and cultural exchange.

The Chinese festival is set to run from Sept. 17 to Sept. 30 as an in-person event after being pushed back from its typical April release date due to the pandemic. Given its close ties to Chinese film authorities, it is often a platform to showcase works from countries with which China hopes to strengthen political ties.

The Russian Film Festival is a program targeting international audiences via a series of online screenings organized by state-run Roskino and backed by Russia’s ministry of culture, in response to the global shutdown of cinemas amid the pandemic. Last year, the festival was held online in Australia, Mexico, Spain and Brazil. This year, it has gone up in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Kazakhstan and South Korea.

Its selection of five films will run in a BJIFF section titled Focus on Russia, which is supported by the Russian Cinema Fund. It seeks to draw on knowledge of Chinese buyers’ past Russian acquisitions to present works that will appeal to local viewer preferences.

“The main purpose of the Russian Film Festival, besides reintroducing new Russian cinema to Chinese audience is to navigate the interests and preferences of local viewers, as well as to initiate a cultural and business dialogue between representatives of the industry,” said Roskino CEO Evgenia Markova. “Our countries have a lot in common — viewers in China traditionally love Russian military dramas, and representatives of the industry have created several projects in co-production in recent years.”

She noted that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Treaty of Good-Neighborliness and Friendly Cooperation to promote cultural exchange between Russia and China.

The Russian program at the BJIFF will include the absurdist comedic drama “A Man From Podolsk,” the debut feature from theater director and actor Semyon Serzin, who played the lead role in “Petrov’s Flu,” which premiered earlier this year in competition at Cannes.

Other selections include “Sputnik,” a sci-fi thriller from the first-time director Egor Abramenko; “Masha,” a crime drama set in the ’90s directed by Anastasiya Palchikova, produced by 1-2-3 Production (creators of the “To the Lake” series) and Mars Media (makers of the Jackie Chan International Action Film Week winner “T-34”); “The North Wind,” a macabre fairy tale from Renata Litvinova; and “Stanislavsky: Lust for Life” by Julia Bobkova, a documentary about the genius of legendary theater director Konstantin Stanislavski.

Additionally, the two Russian films will compete in the festival’s main Tiantan Awards competition: “Conference” by Ivan Tverdovsky and “A Siege Diary” by Andrey Zaytsev. Two others — “The Whaler Boy,” the first feature from Philipp Yuryev that won last year’s Venice Days program at Venice, and “Chupacabra” by Grigory Kolomiytsev — will run in the out-of-competition Forward Future section.

In a statement, the Russian Film Festival emphasized that China is one of the most important economic and cultural partners of Russia, as well as a long-term leader in the international consumption of Russian films.

Olga Lyubimova, minister of culture of the Russian Federation, said it was “challenging and pleasant” to see the presence of Russian content at international film festivals and platforms “steadily expanding.”

“We have always taken into account the interest of Chinese viewers in our films, and the Beijing International Film Festival is a great place to strengthen the relationships with our partners, as well as to delight the audience with new projects,” she said.

Representatives from the BJIFF organizing committee said the Focus on Russia section could “become a precious bridge for the movie industry and audiences in both countries.”

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