Ukraine's Odessa Film Festival Pulls International Star Power

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Michael Winterbottom

The fourth edition of the fest includes Michael Winterbottom, Roger Corman, Emir Kusturica, Alexander Rodnyansky and Jiri Menzel amongs its guests.

MOSCOW – Ukraine’s Odessa Film Festival opened its fourth edition Friday betting on star power to help build a reputation as a “festival for spectators.”

With international industry figures due in the Crimean port city -- ranging from British director Michael Winterbottom, who will present his new Paul Raymond biopic, The Look of Love, and Mike Lerner, producer of the Sundance documentary hit Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, to Hollywood indie veteran Roger Corman and Serbian director Emir Kusturica, each presenting master classes -- Odessa is planting an ambitious flag.

“We are positioning ourselves as a film festival for spectators,” festival director Denis Ivanov told The Hollywood Reporter.

“Last year we had 100,000 admissions. The festival is starting to become an event that could discover great directors and producers for a wider audience. We are trying to bring some important names out of the cultural ghetto.”

The festival is also positioning itself as an industry event with a section for film professionals that will see key figures in the Ukrainian industry at Odessa this year.

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Those figures include Moscow-based Ukrainian-born film producer Alexander Rodnyanksy, who will be introducing Billy Bob Thornton’s Jayne Mansfield’s Car, which he produced.

Rodnyansky, who combines Russian and international productions his slate of projects, was also a co-producer of Cloud Atlas.

Although another of Russia’s international industry figures, Hollywood and Moscow-based director and producer Timur Bekmambetov, who was billed to attend, pulled out before the festival opened, this year’s guest line-up is impressive for a relatively small and recent addition to the international festival calendar.

Ivanov said the festival was able to attract a strong guest line-up because Odessa was a city with an international image

“I think it's magic of the city that evokes the classic cinematography of Sergey Eisenstein, Aleksander Dovzhenko and Dziga Vertov,” he said.

“We have a summer film school running during the festival and most of the guests are coming to meet students and to give master classes. Also producers are presenting their films to the local market and using the festival as a platform to promote their works.”

Other guests at the festival, which runs until July 20, include Czech director Jiri Menzel, who will present a screening of his 1966 classic Closely Watched Trains and German actress Franziska Petri.