'Anna Karenina' bows at KinoArt Festival

Toronto's homage to Russian film past and present

TORONTO -- Veteran Russian director Sergey Solovyev's "Anna Karenina," a film adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel, received its North American premiere Thursday night at the KinoArt Festival in Toronto.

The veteran director and "Karenina" lead Tatyana Drubich were on hand for Toronto's homage to Russian film, which includes two other Solovyev pics, the 80's cult-classic film "Assa" and its long-awaited sequel "Assa 2."

KinoArt founder and executive director Alla-Ani Poliakova said the festival aims to "chronicle the evolution of Russian films, past and present," by bringing that country's feature films, documentaries and shorts to North America.

Also unspooling in Toronto is Vladimir Bortko's $20 million period drama "Taras Bulba" from Russian studo Central Partnership, and a North American premiere for Liza Listova's "Metro," part of a Soviet Empire documentary cycle that in its latest installment chronicles the 1930s Stalin-era construction of the Moscow subway system.

Listova said she used animation, archival footage and props to help dramatize her historical film, not least to keep Russian couch potatoes from switching to reality shows and other soaps on competing channels.

"Besides, I believe that my work -- as well as the long-suffering and badly-treated history of my country -- is not a subject for peaceful snoozing in front of the TV set," Listova added.

The KinoArt Festival runs to Sunday in Toronto.