On the eve of the St. Petersburg International Media Forum, general producer Katya Mtsitouridze together with the Forum’s film program curators discussed the business and cinema sections of the upcoming event.
Preparations for the opening of the Forum tomorrow are in full swing - the Old St. Petersburg Stock Exchange on the Strelka of Vasilyevsky Island, which was transferred to the Hermitage in December 2013, is transforming right before our eyes. Inside the Stock Exchange, in the areas designated for the business section of SPIMF (film market, master classes and press conferences) the Forum team has created an original, futuristic interior to match the event. A new format is about to be tested for the first time in the history of St. Petersburg film screenings: a market for television and digital content, a co-production market for the countries of Northern Europe, and a parade of new media start-ups; there will also be screenings of TV series pilots which haven’t been aired yet. At the press conference, general producer and inspirational mastermind of the Media Forum Katya Mtsitouridze told journalists that at first, the general director of the State Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, was skeptical about the idea of staging the Forum in the historical building of the Old Stock Exchange, whose interior was still awaiting renovation. But in the end this building, which from the very beginning was intended for deal-making and trade, turned out to be the best possible choice. And the presence of the Forum can be felt already: the Palace and Stock Exchange Bridges have been decorated with flags bearing the Forum logo. No detail has been left to chance, certainly not the event’s artistic design.
The press conference began with a presentation by the Cinema Lab of Alexander Sokurov — the board of trustees of the Forum has renewed the work of his C.L.A.S. workshop, in which over the course of an entire week, the directors of 80 amateur films, selected via competition, will meet with masters of Russian domestic cinematography in the village of Repino. Alexander Sokurov noted that he believes in his future students more than in his professional colleagues or in today’s graduates of prestigious film schools.
Film critic Mikhail Trofimenkov, presenting a selection of films he compiled for his program political films, explained the principle behind the organization of the cinema section at SPIMF: while critics at film festivals typically disagree with the politics of the selectors, or with the final dissemination of prizes by the jury, in this case the critics themselves have become the selectors. Vassily Koretsky, curator of a program dedicated to Chinese and North Korean film, and editor-in-chief of the Kino section of Colta.ru, told journalists that in his program, North Korean officialdom — films that were based on the covenants of the great leader Kim Jong-Il, and approved by the party — bumped heads with documentary films about the People’s Republic of China, made by Western cinematographers. Boris Nelepo, a consultant of the Locarno Film Festival, went right into detail about two of his curated programs: Locarno Local, featuring such cinephilic delights as a nearly six-hour-long film by Filipino director Lav Diaz, and N-L-PO, consisting of rare sci-fi films. The next presenter, curator of the Mamentum program and president of the Festival of Festivals Alexander Mamontov didn’t fail to note that, in contrast to the arthouse flicks in Boris Nelepo, his choice of films (among them the new picture by François Ozon and a biopic of the great fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent) is aimed at a wide audience, and tickets for the screenings are most likely sold out. Alexey Medvedev, film critic and program director of the Sakhalin festival Edge of the World, advised the press conference attendees that under no circumstances should they miss the opportunity to meet Agnès B., a young French designer and head of her own fashion brand, whose film debut is one of the selections in his program Teen Spirit. Kirill Sorokin and Alyona Bocharova, creators of a festival of new documentary film called the Beat Film Festival, have brought to St. Petersburg five films, each more intriguing than the next, including Martin Scorsese’s latest picture The 50 Year Argument, which will have its European debut at the Media Forum.
Presenting the industrial section of SPIMF, Katya Msitoutidze remarked that although the St. Petersburg authorities contributed 40 million rubles to the event, not a single program was censored. She also called on the press to pay attention to the interesting events at the Media Forum dedicated to TV series and the work of the film market, and to the accompanying professional discussions, among them a panel discussion on the problems of piracy, the monetization of media on the Internet, new ways to distribute content using the VOD platform — things which the film press traditionally has not paid much attention to, although these very real trends will determine the future development of the industry.