Ukraine's Odessa Film Festival Kicks Off With Increased Hollywood Presence

Maggie's Plan still - H 2016
Courtesy of Sundance Institute

U.S. screenwriter Christopher Hampton will become the first ever Hollywood rep to lead the international competition's jury.

The seventh edition of the Odessa International Film Festival, Ukraine's main movie event, will kick off in the Black Sea port city on Friday.

The festival found itself in financial trouble two years ago, following the ousting of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych and ensuing economic turmoil and military conflict with Russia over East Ukraine.

By now, though, the fest has been able to improve its finances, but expansion plans discussed three years ago are still on hold. Russian presence has been curtailed, but Hollywood is showing an increased presence this year.

OIFF's main section, the international competition, will feature 12 features, including Burn Burn Burn by British director Chanya Button, Rusudan Glurjidze's House of Others, co-produced by Georgia, Spain, Russia and Croatia, and Suntan by Greek filmmaker Argyris Papadimitropoulos.

The fest's other sections are the European documentary competition, national competitions for features and shorts, a special Ukrainian retrospective and two sections focused on the most recent international festival hits, which are called "Festival of Festivals" and "Gala Premieres."

Among the gems of the festival's non-competition lineup will be Mimosas by Oliver Laxe, the winner of the Cannes Critics' Week; Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz's Oscar- and Golden Globe-nominated film Gett: the Trial of Viviane Amsalem; and the erotic melodrama The Handmaiden by South Korean director Park Chan-wook.

This year, the festival is also set to host its second "Digital Media Day," an event focused on innovations in the field of cinema. Speakers will include Erica Anderson, co-founder of the Seed & Spark platform; Eveline Buchatskiy, director of accelerator TechStars Boston; and Raymond Van Der Kaaij, creative producer and managing director at Revolver Amsterdam, who will be speaking about his virtual reality film Amani.

The festival will open Friday night with Magruerite, a French/Czech/Belgian co-production, directed by Xavier Giannoli.

Maggie's Plan by U.S. director Rebecca Miller will be screened as the festival's closing-night film. It is about a woman (Greta Gerwig) who falls in love with a married man (Ethan Hawke) and then ends up devising a strategy to bring him back together with his former wife (Julianne Moore).

The international jury, headed by U.S. screenwriter Christopher Hampton will announce the winners at the closing ceremony on July 23.