Russians have long embraced the cinematic arts; Russian and later Soviet cinema flourished in the early 1920s, resulting in world-renowned films such as The Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstein. This flowering continued through the 1960s and 70s, with Sergey Bondarchuk’s film adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace becoming not only the most expensive film made up until that time in the Soviet Union, but also winning the Academy and Golden Globe awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
Contemporary Russian cinema will be showcased at the Russian Resurrection Film Festival screening at Palace Cinema August 2–4. Celebrating its tenth anniversary in Australia this year, the Festival is now one of the oldest, largest and most respected Russian film festivals outside Russia.
Palace Byron Bay will be screening seven diverse films, beginning on Friday August 2 with the thriller Metro. Directed by Anton Megerdichev, the film is set in modern-day Moscow, where a building boom in the centre of the city has led to a crack forming in the tunnel between two metro stations. No-one could have imagined that this would lead to water gushing out of the Moscow River and into the tunnel, endangering hundreds of train passengers with an impending flood. The raging torrent threatens not only the collapse of underground tunnels, but the destruction of the entire city. Among the people caught up in the disaster is Dr Garin, who tries to save the surviving passengers, including his wife’s lover. Garin has to overcome his bitterness, anger and fear; he has to survive in order to rebuild his love, his family and his previously happy life.
Patrons will be fortified for the oncoming terror by opening-night pre-film nibbles and drinks, including – of course – vodka shots!
Saturday sees three films screening from 2.30pm: the deliciously optimistic, multi-stranded romantic comedy and Russian-Georgian coproduction Love with an Accent; the psychological detective drama The Iron Butterfly; and The Conductor. With masterful performances, exemplary cinematography and beautiful music, this drama about a Russian conductor who takes his orchestra to Jerusalem to perform St Matthew’s Passion is a winner on all fronts.
A modern remake of the 1971 classic Gentlemen of Fortune gets Sunday’s program off to a colourfully comic start when Treshkin, a children’s party entertainer, is recruited by the police to pose as a notorious gangster whom he closely resembles; he is embedded in an Egyptian prison with the gangster’s accomplices, ultimately leading them on a daring escape and a series of misadventures in Egypt. On Sunday afternoon the festival premieres The Geographer, a thought-provoking drama that combines breathtaking cinematography and a moving music score with the story of Viktor Sluzhkin, who, despite his desperate loneliness, never loses his capacity to feel and to love.
Closing the festival on Sunday night is the stunning musical Hipsters, from acclaimed director Valery Todorovsky and set in the 1950s-era Soviet Union. Mels is a member of the Komsomol, the youth wing of the Communist Party, and Polina is a Stilyagi or Hipster, a group of youths who stand out from the rest of their grey-clothed comrades with their flashy colourful clothes and love of jazz and American culture. While on a ‘raid’ to break up a Hipster party, Mels chases Polina, gets thrown into a pond by her, and immediately falls in love – as you do. As Mels starts to hang out with the local Hipsters the audience is taken on a song-and-dance extravaganza that explores what people will do for love; the love of music and the love of freedom.
Russian Film Festival 2013 – Russian Resurrection, Palace Byron Bay Cinema, Friday 2 August – Sunday 4 August.
Programs and tickets are now available at Palace Byron Bay Cinema. Phone bookings 6680 8555, online bookings, program and session times at www.palacecinemas.com.au.