NICHOLAS MAKSYMOW Russian arc

This week sees the Russian Resurrection Film Festival return to Cinema Paradiso from October 27 to November 1. Now in it’s 14th year, this is a celebration of Russian cinema, showing many of the films that have thrilled Russia in the past year. DAVID O’CONNELL spoke to Festival Director Nicholas Maksymow about what the festival has to offer this year.

Did the Russian Resurrection Film Festival really begin because of the film Russian Ark, and premier Bob Carr being put on the spot?

Correct. Back in 2003 when Russian Ark was released, I was on the board of the Russian club in Sydney, and the distributors approached us to help with the premiere screening. They had invited Bob Carr (then Premier of NSW) to open the film, and during that we put him on the spot and asked him if he would support a film festival. That’s how it all started, he was very positive in his response.

So fourteen years later and you are still going strong?

Exactly.

What are the selection criteria like? Do you include box-office hits and festival films?

Yeah we do. We select across a range of films and genres. We have box office hits such Attraction, Spacewalkers and Viking, but we also have art-house classics such as Cold Tango, Arrythmia. Every year we also do a retrospective.

This year it’s Andrei Konchalovsky in celebration of his 80th Birthday?

It was about last year when I heard of plans to do a retrospective around Russia for his birthday, and I thought it was something good we could tune into here, to celebrate his career. Obviously having worked in Hollywood, UK and Russia, I thought it would be a timely celebration of his work.

So as part of that retrospective, Perth is getting a screening of his almost forgotten classic Runaway Train?

Yes with John Voight. I’ve not seen it since it is initial release. I recall that in the last half hour on the train, the tension keeps rising and rising.

You also have a bit of a space theme this year with Attraction and Spacewalk. Is there a reason for that?

Spacewalkers and Salyut 7 were made to commemorate Yuri Gagarin’s first journey into space, in the Soviet days. In celebration of the anniversary of that milestone, producers decided to make these two films. Having said that they are both quiet different, one’s a true story adventure (Spacewalkers) and the other is more a thriller with sci-fi (Attraction) to it as well.

Any other films you would like to recommend?

The opening night film (About Love. Adults Only) in Perth stars John Malkovich. It is six short stories, these short novellas and the directors make each story vastly different, but at the end you put the story together and get the whole story. Like Robert Altman often does.

How do you think the Russian film industry has evolved over the last 14 years?

Like anywhere it comes in waves, we’ve had high points and low points. During the period of our festival, the GFC produced a down turn in quality, but this year we’ve seen a really good collections films from different genres come through. Some are still picking up awards, like Konchalovsky’s Paradise.

You also have a deliberate policy to show at least one film during the festival aimed at a younger audience…

Australia is a very multicultural country, as we know, with kids studying foreign languages all the time, through Saturday schools etc. We’ve tapped on this market through animation films particularly aimed towards kids, and it’s taken off. The kids that study Russian will come along with their parents. I think it is a good way of introducing them, not just to Russian film, but to the whole notion of foreign film.

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