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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – The second St. Petersburg International Film Festival (Sept. 13-22) closed on Sunday night at the Aurora Cinema, the festival’s main venue, located on Nevsky Prospekt, the city’s main thoroughfare.
The main competition jury, headed up by Russian film director, screenwriter and producer Sergei Bodrov (Prisoner of the Caucasus, Mongol), awarded the festival’s Best Film award to Mexican cinematographer-turned-director Diego Quemada-Diez’s film The Golden Cage (La jaula de oro). The other jury members included Tribeca Film Festival head Geoffrey Gilmore, European Film Academy director Marion Doring, Latvian film director Juris Poskus and Swiss film director Christoph Schaub. The jury selected the winning film from a pool of 14 competition films from 14 countries.
Festival audiences chose Lucia Puenzo‘s The German Doctor for the Audience Choice Award, Thierry de Peretti’s Les Apaches picked up a Special Mention Award, and the Russian Guild of Film Critics gave their White Elephant award to Laila Marrakchi’s Rock the Casbah. The festival’s Best Director award went to Peter Monsaert for the film Offline. Shirley Henderson won Best Actress for her turn in Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday. The festival’s Best Actor award went to the entire cast of Tudor Giurgiu’s Of Snails and Men.
Like any relatively new event, the new festival is going through growing pains, and this year’s festival suffered the indignity of having its top expected guest Oliver Stone cancel in the 11th hour, leaving the festival in the lurch with travel, accommodation and other logistical expenses. Stone, who had visited Eastern Europe earlier this year with an appearance at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, cited his nonagenarian mother’s ill health as the reason for his absence. French-American actor Jean-Marc Barr (The Big Blue) also cancelled a scheduled visit in conjunction with his appearance in Michael Polish’s Big Sur, part of the festival program.
“The highlight of the festival was the audiences, rather, their numbers and their ages,” said festival director Maria Averbakh, daughter of the late St. Petersburg film director Ilya Averbakh, in her closing statement. “I think this is serious food for thought for our filmmakers – audiences are much younger and more selective than they think. Our festival jury’s choice once again confirms the absence of any intervention in their work, and also rules out any manipulation for the sake of pomp and circumstance.”
“The festival’s post-film Q&As have become the hallmark of the festival,” Averbakh added. “They have not only caught the fancy of viewers who have the opportunity to personally discuss the issues raised in the films, but also by the filmmakers themselves, who were amazed by the profound and probing questions from the audiences.”
The public-friendly festival sold tickets at a very reasonable 150 rubles ($4.70), with discounted tickets for students and senior citizens at 100 rubles ($3.13). The festival held 112 screenings over nine days, with more than 10,000 admissions sold.
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