Ukraine's Odessa Film Festival Vows to Open Despite Crisis

Odessa Film Festival 5th edition poster

The event will double prize money in some categories in a show of resilience after it lost all state funding.

The president of Ukraine's Odessa International Film Festival has vowed the event's fifth edition, due to open in July, will go ahead despite the country's political and financial crisis.

Viktoria Tigipko said organizers would "do everything possible to hold the festival," even though government funding had been withdrawn.

"In [the] current difficult conditions it will be held without any unnecessary glitz," said Tigipko, who is married to Ukrainain politician Sergiy Tigipko, a former vice premier and former head of Ukraine's national bank.

She added that there would be fewer social events and a "more modest dress code" at the opening and closing ceremonies of the festival, scheduled to run 11-19 July, in the historic Black Sea port city. "All the efforts will be focused on maintaining the festival's international level and creating a top-quality lineup," Tigipko stated. 

STORY: Russia Plans Film Presence in Annexed Crimea Region

Her comments came Thursday as the International Monetary Fund announced it would provide $14 billion to $16 billion in bailout funds that could rise to a total of $27 billion in loans over the next two years.

Months of anti-government protests in Kiev ended in February in brief but bloody clashes that left as many as 100 people dead and victory for the revolution, when President Viktor Yanukovych fled the country.

Russia's rapid deployment of troops in unmarked uniforms to Ukraine's Crimea peninsula resulted in its annexation by Russia last week, pitching the country into further turmoil.

Meanwhile, the Odessa film festival also announced a new section titled "The Way to Freedom" that will screen films about the establishment of civil society in Ukraine. The event will also double its cash prize for the best Ukrainian feature film project and a new award for best actor. The prize money will be provided by commercial sponsors, the festival said.

The best actor award, which includes a cash prize of 10,000 hryvna (worth around $900 at current exchange rates), was a response to the decision by the country’s interim post-revolution government to withdraw funding this year.

"We understand the importance of contribution to the development of the national cinema and because of that we decided to introduce a new nomination for best actor," the festival said in a statement.

The cash award for the best Ukrainian feature film project at an industry pitching session the festival hosts would be doubled to a sum worth around $4,500. The prize is sponsored by a Ukrainain property development company.

The festival also announced a special open air screening on Odessa's famous Potemkin Stairs of Alfred Hitchcock's 1929 film Blackmail, hailed as both the last silent movie and the first talkie.

The screening, accompanied by a live symphony orchestra, will be of a rare silent version of the movie that has been restored by the British Film Institute. Hitchcock appears in a cameo role in the film, which became his trademark.

Berlin-based director Sergei Loznitsa, who grew up in Kiev, will be among the members of the international jury and Poland's Pawel Pawlikowski will be part of the Ukrainian films jury.

More than 80 film festivals worldwide, including Cannes, Berlin and Venice, have appealed to producers and distributors to offer films to the festival free of charge to support Ukrainian film professionals in "the toughest year of their careers."