Russia's Kinotavr Film Festival Secures Future Financing With Arts Foundation Deal

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Alexander Rodnyansky, president of Kinotavr film festival

The RuArts Foundation has taken a 35 percent stake in the Sochi festival's annual budget.

Russia's national film festival Kinotavr, which wrapped its 26th edition late Sunday in Sochi, has secured its future after signing a $1 million partnership deal with a private arts foundation.

The deal with the RuArts Foundation — headed by Marianne Sardarova, the wife of billionaire industrialist Rashid Sardarov, chairman of the South Urals Industrial Company — stabilizes the annual event's finances after the loss of sponsors including Russian mobile telephone operator Beeline. 

The involvement of RuArts, which has taken a 35 percent stake in the festival's annual 150 million rubles ($2.7 million) budget, is likely to change the event's artistic approach, Kinotavr president and owner Alexander Rodnyansky told The Hollywood Reporter.

"Marianne loves the visual arts, but also classic music and gallery displays — she has a gallery in Moscow. We managed to agree a common approach just before Kinotavr opened," he said. Sardarova was a co-producer on Golden Globe-winning Leviathan, he added.

Next year's edition of the festival, held annually in the Black Sea port city that last year also hosted the Winter Olympics, could feature a wider range of artistic events beyond features, documentaries and shorts, Rodnyansky added.

The festival, which is partially funded by the Ministry of Culture, the city of Sochi and Krasnodar region, like many arts events in Russia, has been scaled back as a result of the economic crisis sparked by last year's sharp fall in the price of oil on world markets and exacerbated by U.S. and EU sanctions over the Kremlin's backing for Ukrainian separatists and Moscow's seizure of Crimea.

Little of that was in evidence at the 26th edition's closing ceremony late Sunday in Sochi, where Anna Melikyan's feature Pro Lyubov (About Love) was voted best film. 

An audience-pleasing rom-com that interweaves five stories of people searching for love, it is Melikyan's first commercial feature after earlier art house movies, The Mermaid and Zvezda (The Star).

A market that runs concurrently with Kinotavr hosted screenings that included Moscow Never Sleeps, the second feature of Moscow-based Irish director Johnny O'Reilly. A sympathetic portrayal of Russia's capital and its characters, the film — the first-ever Russian-Irish co-production — is scheduled for a 500-700 print release in Russia early September through Moscow's Exponenta Film.

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