The 17th edition of the Pacific Meridian International Film Festival of Asian Pacific Countries in Vladivostok took place on 13-19 September 2019 in the Russian Far East. The NETPAC Award for the best feature went to Great Poetry, by the Russian director Alexander Lungin who also received the Best Director Award from the main jury. Another Russian film, A Russian Youth, was given the Best Film Award, again by the main jury as well as by the Fipresci jury. The fact that the three independent juries of the festival, comprising international members, awarded Russian films reflects the current dynamism of the Seventh Art in the country of Alexander Sokurov and Andrei Tarkovski.
The NETPAC Award winning film, Great Poetry, deals with two young men who live on the outskirts of Moscow and work as cash collectors. They spend their time delivering other people’s money. They are lonely and lead a monotonous life. In order to escape from their bleak existence, the two friends attend a poetry class at the local cultural center and watch cockfights. Their attempts at finding poetry in the prosaic world around them, in a society in which they are not really integrated, finally lead them to rob a bank and reach the point of no return.
Of the six films that the NETPAC (dream) team had to choose from in Vladivostok, Great Poetry was by far the most powerful for its brutal depiction of modern social issues concerning post-war trauma and friendship, and sustained by an astonishing performance and daring and poetic direction.
The film is the second feature-length film by Alexander Lungin who debuted as a director in 2010 with Act of Nature. It won the Prize for Best Cinematography at Kinotavr, the Russian national film festival which is held every year in June in Sochi on the Black Sea coast.
A Russian Youth, which received the Best Feature Award here in Vladivostok, marks the promising debut of Alexander Zolotukhin, born in Ukraine in 1988. The film tells the story of a simple village boy who goes to the front during the First World War with youthful dreams of fame and medals. But in the very first battle, he loses his sight as a result of a gas attack by the Germans.
The film, which was the second favourite film of the NETPAC jury, shows the horrors of the war, with an orchestra rehearsing compositions of influential Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff in the background. The originality of the film lies in its effective cinematographic language marrying music with faded colour images - not always focused - and a stylized grainy footage portraying a naive youngster caught in the whirlwind of war. From a historic tragedy can emerge brotherly love and care, director Zolotukhin seems to say, as he shows soldiers with respect and dignity through narrowed shots.
The NETPAC jury was composed of Keoprasith Souvannavong (Chairperson), a French - Laotian journalist and chief multimedia editor at Radio France International (RFI); Andronika Màrtonova, a Bulgarian film critic, scholar and university professor of Asian cinema; and Sergei Dioshin, a Russian film critic, curator and independent film director.
Vladivostok: Russian warmth and professionalism We thank the organizers, the staff and all the volunteers for their outstanding hospitality and their warm-hearted welcome at the Pacific Meridian International Film Festival in Vladivostok. Nor will we forget our exceptional stay in the native town of the actor Yul Brynner.
-- Keoprasith Souvannavong (Chairperson, NETPAC Jury)
-- Edited by Latika Padgaonkar