Ukraine's Odessa International Film Festival Kicks Off Despite Financial Problems

Ukraine's main film event continues against a backdrop of local political and economic turmoil.

MOSCOW — The fifth edition of the Odessa International Film Festival (OIFF) will kick off in the Ukrainian Black Sea port city on July 11. Although the country's political and economic troubles earlier this year led to a partial loss of funding for the festival, its organizers were still able to recover with the budget and launch the event.

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The international competition will feature 12 movies, including Big Significant Things by U.S. director Bryan Reisberg, Bai ri yan huo by China's Yi'nan Diao and the Ukrainian film Povodyr (The Guide), about the son of a U.S. communist who is killed in 1930s Soviet Union, by director Oles Sanin.                           

The noncompetitive section, Road to Freedom, consists of films devoted to revolutions in several countries, featuring, among others, Maidan, a documentary by award-winning Ukrainian filmmaker Sergey Loznitsa, which premiered at Cannes last May. It centers on this year's mass protests in Kiev, which toppled the regime of president Viktor Yanukovych.

Directors Stephen Frears and Darren Aronofsky are among this year's festival guests.

Inaugurated four years ago, Odessa IFF has come to prominence as Ukraine's most significant film event. However, this year's edition was in jeopardy when state funding for the film industry was canceled following the fall of Yanukovych's regime. The country was facing severe political and economic challenges, exacerbated by Russia's annexation of Crimea and clashes between Ukrainian armed forces and separatists in the country's Eastern region.

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The city of Odessa was also affected as an armed conflict between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian crowds and an ensuing fire killed nearly 50 people in early May.

However, the organizers were determined to push ahead with the festival and used various funding sources, including a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.