Russia's Biggest Doc Fest to Relaunch in Latvia

Pipeline Still H

Vitaly Mansky, who was denied state funding by the Kremlin, will relaunch ArtDoc Fest at the Riga film festival in October.

A Moscow director, whose leading documentary film festival closed down after government funding was withdrawn last year, is relaunching it in Latvia.

Vitaly Mansky, who left Russia to live in exile in Latvia after disputes with the government, said Monday he will bring his ArtDoc Fest to Riga during the city's second International Film Festival Riga, which runs Oct. 15-Oct. 26.

Russian culture minister Vladimir Medinsky has vowed never to fund any of Mansky's projects while he is in his post, citing the director's "anti-government" stance that had led to the withdrawal of funding for the country's largest documentary festival.

Mansky, an award-winning director, considered one of Russia's best documentary talents, said that while he hoped to keep the showcase in Moscow, relocating to Riga allows it to continue presenting cutting-edge world premieres.

"We shall show films that are all-but impossible to screen in Russia," Mansky told the website of Latvia's public broadcaster "We hope these are films that can be shown in Russia; the uncertainty is not so much due to politics but the vagaries of Russian legislation."

Legal restrictions in Russia meant that films about gay families or docs that inclyde swearing could not be shown. Other films, such as Grozny Blues, a politically critical Swiss documentary about life in the Chechen capital, were also impossible to screen there, he added.

Simone Baumann, who produced Mansky's award-winning film about the Russian natural gas industry, Pipeline, and his new film about North Korea, In the Rays of the Sun, says the move to Riga made sense given the restrictions the director faces in Russia.

"Mansky would like to keep ArtDoc Fest in Moscow, but does not know how long it would last there," she tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Riga is a very good alternative. It is close to Russia and the former Soviet republics and gives him a good opportunity to develop the festival in a more international way, which has always been his plan."

Mansky's North Korea film will be screened in Germany at the Leipzig film festival late October before its official world premiere at Tallinn's Black Nights festival in November, according to Baumann.