Fifty films were shown at movie theaters across the city, the Old St. Petersburg Stock Exchange on the Strelka of Vasilyevsky Island played host to a three-day-long market for film and television content, and participants of the Forum who are part of 'the in-crowd' streamed into the city's various clubs and restaurants.
The Old Stock Exchange was transformed into a modern structure with contemporary decor and advanced technical facilities. Not long ago, this place was the site of the Naval museum, after which it sat vacant for several years; only recently was it handed over to the State Hermitage Museum. On the opening day of the Forum, the Stock Exchange's steps were adorned with a red carpet, the interior was fitted out for film screenings, traffic was diverted to make way for arrival of guests, and torches were lit on the Rostral Columns. Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the Hermitage, remarked that in addition to its various exhibits, the museum now offers film. In fact, so drastic was the city center's makeover that it couldn't have happened without the stewardship of Governor Georgy Poltavchenko.
One might say the Forum began with a French accent - the cinema section included six French films in its roster. Most likely this was a result of the long-term ties between the Forum's general producer Ekaterina Mtsitouridze and Roskino, which has represented Russia at the Cannes Film Festival for seven years. Now, an opportunity has appeared not only to travel to the Promenade de la Croisette, but also to greet guests along the banks of the Neva.
First, the B152 cafe honored Francois Ozon, who premiered his new film The New Girlfriend at the Forum. Also in attendance at this lunch were Jerome Paillard, director of the Cannes International Film Market Marche du Film, Joël Chapron, vice-president of Unifrance; Marina Zhigalova, head of Disney Russia; Ruslan Linkov, general director of Petro Mir; producer Valeria Rodnianskaya; director Alexey Uchitel, and others. One more French-themed evening was an event celebrating the director Benoît Jacquot (he brought his film Three Hearts), taking place at the Museum of Theatrical Arts: the backdrop consisted of posters of revolutionary dramatic productions from 1918, autographs of Dmitry Shostakovich, and a full-size portrait of Anna Pavlova. For several hours that day, the museum's central showpiece was a towering pyramid built from glasses of champagne and canapés with caviar. Michel Grange, director of the French Institute of St. Petersburg, remarked that the city has a tradition of French people greeting their compatriots dating back 103 years. He also noted that two of the city's theaters, the 'Alexandrinka' and the 'Marinka' (the Alexandrinsky and Mariinsky), are working on productions by French directors. The clink of champagne glasses was accompanied by shouts of "Vive la France!" And opera wasn't forgotten - Ekaterina Mtsitouridze managed to sneak out between film screenings to see Othello at the Mariinsky, taking Jerome Paillard and Alexander Sokurov with her.
Another of the city's traditional musical genres - rock and roll - was the theme of a party celebrating the 90th anniversary of Roskino. In the club More (the Sea), Evgeny Fyodorov performed with his Optimistik Orchestra, after which people danced late into the night. There was no shortage of champagne and cocktails at DLT, for the premiere of Bertrand Bonello's Saint Laurent, nor at the cinema Rodina, where they showed the first episode of the third season of the cult TV series of the same name. The rights owners - Amediateka - hosted a reception at the Koryushka restaurant, on the beach adjacent to the Peter and Paul Fortress. At the no less picturesque restaurant Il Lago on Krestovsky Island, Paul Heth, head of Concern Karo, organized an invitation-only dinner. Together with producer Michael Schlict, he met Tom Luddy, head of the Telluride Film Festival (USA), actress and producer Vera Glagoleva, general director Dmitry Litvinof of the holding Planet Inform, Professor Lance Weiler of the Digital Storytelling Lab at Columbia University, Showtime vice-president Megan Kimberly, vice-president Michael Robinson of the Motion Picture Association of America, and others.
The cross-platforming theme of the Forum's events, which Ms. Mtsitouridze spoke about, began to show itself in full force when the evening screenings, the business events, the presentations, the cocktail parties and the dinners began to flash like captions in a fast-motion rewind. In various places in St. Petersburg it was possible to meet Frederic Boyer, artistic director of the TriBeCa Film Festival, director/producer/actor Fyodor Bondarchuk, producers Sergey Selyanov, Alexander Akopov, Andrei Sigle, Alexander Tsekalo, Aleksandr Dulerain and Vadim Goryainov; directors Nikolai Khomeriki, Boris Khlebnikov, Pyotr Buslov, and Roman Volobyev; TV presenters Andrei Malakhov, Alexey Pivovarov, Ivan Kudryavtsev, and Alexey Pimanov; senior managers at STS Media Vyacheslav Murugov and Yuliana Slascheva; Hong Kong film market director Tandy Lim, RF vice-minister of communications Alexey Volin, and general director of Channel Five Alexey Brodsky.
Guests and participants once again gathered at the Stock Exchange for the closing ceremony, to find out the names of the winners. Here, a surprise was waiting for the journalists: before they went in, everyone was asked for their promise not to distribute any of the content of the closing film, Serena, by Suzanne Bier. The thing was - the film's world premiere took place only today.
The viewers' prize, a sculpture in the form of a separated drawbridge, was sent from St. Petersburg to France; based on the voting done in cinemas and via Internet, the winner was The New Girlfriend, by Francois Ozon. The press jury prizes went to the Australian documentary film Aim High in Creation, about North Korea, and the American series Homeland; the press jury diploma went to Londongrad, a new series on STS. The ceremony was presented by Vasily Barkhatov.
Ms. Mtsitouridze was so overtaken with emotion that she couldn't say the words "The Forum is now over" on her first attempt, and she called to director Alexander Sokurov for assistance. Thankfully, he had some recent experience with this - just the day before he said goodbye, in the village of Repino, to the students of his creative laboratory, which was part of the Forum.
The only thing possibly missing at the closing ceremony was the weather that other festivals enjoy - in Cannes, say, or Venice. But the organizers actually promised to fix this for next time: perhaps, the Media Forum will be held in summer on the eve of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum.