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Rome Film Fest to Posthumously Honor Russian Director Aleksey German

Aleksey German, Svetlana Karmalita - H 2013
Aleksey German (center) and Svetlana Karmalia (against the wall on the left)

The festival will also host the world premiere of German's "Hard to be a God," a film that took so long to make that some actors died of old age.

ROME -- The Rome Film Festival announced Tuesday it would posthumously honor Russian filmmaker Aleksey German with its lifetime achievement award, as well as host the world premiere of the maestro's final film, Hard to be a God (Trudno byt' bogom), a project more than 35 years in the making.

German died in February in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the age of 74. Festival organizers said they discussed the award with him before his death and ultimately decided to honor him with the prize despite his passing. German's widow, Svetlana Karmalita -- German's co-writer for many of his projects -- and his son, Aleksey German MI -- himself an established filmmaker with a Venice Silver Lion to his credit -- will be on hand to accept the award.

Rome officials said it is the first time a major European film festival awarded its lifetime achievement prize posthumously.

Despite producing films infrequently -- Hard to be a God is his first film in 15 years and only his sixth directorial effort in a 35-year career -- German's work as been celebrated, earning accolades from festivals in Rotterdam, Locarno, and Cannes, as well as having earned him a spot on the Cannes jury more than 20 years ago.

Marco Mueller, Rome's second-year artistic director, said German's career, which often included clashes with Soviet censors, was "an artistic and philosophical progression that is absolutely mind-boggling."

The festival also grouped German with Andrei Tarkovsky and Alksandr Sokurov as part of a "Russian trinity" that revolutionized Russian cinema.

German's father, Yuri German, was a prolific soviet-era writer whose writings have been made into at least 17 films and shorts.

The ceremony to honor German will be followed by the first public screening of Hard to be a God, a science fiction epic inspired by the 1964 cult novel of the same named, penned by brothers Boris and Arkady Strugatsky. German first started work on the film soon after the publication of the novel, but halted work on the project for two decades. Shooting didn't start until 2000 and it lasted more than six years, so long some of the older actors died of old age before it was completed. Post-production took five more years, continuing even after German's death.

The 8th edition of the Rome festival will take place Nov. 8-17.

Twitter: @EricJLyman