Kinotavr lineup culled from before downturn

Festival's budget cut by half, program one day shorter

MOSCOW -- Kinotavr, Russia's main film festival, will kick off its 20th edition in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Sunday, featuring mostly films that were made before the global downturn hit the local film industry.

Festival organizers admit that the wide choice of movies for the main competition is unlikely to last, as the film industry struggles to stay afloat.

"This year, we selected 12 feature films out of 62 that were submitted," Sitora Aliyeva, the festival's programming director, told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that the selection committee is unlikely to have that many movies to choose from next year, given a sharp decline in local production.

According to Aliyeva, the economic downturn also hit the festival itself. "Our budget was cut roughly by half," she said. "The program is one day shorter and the number of guests and journalists has declined."

Among the features selected for the main competition are three films that had their international premieres at the Cannes Film Festival last month: Boris Khlebnikov's "Sumasshedshaya Pomoshch" (Help Gone Mad), Ivan Vyrypayev's "Kislorod" (Oxygen) and Nikolai Khomeriki's "Skazka Pro Temnotu" (A Fairy Tale About Darkness). The selection's other highlights are Vasily Sigarev's "Volchok" (Spinning Top), Andrei Proshkin's "Minnesota" and Ivan Dykhovichny's "Yevropa-Aziya" (Europe-Asia).

Kinotavr remains the main local film event, and in recent years, it has competed with the Moscow International Film Festival, held later in June, for best local directors' most recent movies.

The organizers rule out the possibility of the festival going out of business. "For all these 20 years, the festival has reflected the real situation in the film industry," Aliyeva said. "It will stay in business despite any possible problems because it's the biggest national film festival in the world in terms of its budget, the number of programs and guests. In the past, we already had periods when few movies were made in the country."

Kinotavr's prizes will be handed out June 15.