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Arctic Open 2020 Erasing Borders Between Genres and Countries
Arctic Open IFF was unfolding in an unusual format this year. Abbreviated and half online, it was devoid of the traditional blue carpet, competition program, debating judges and award ceremony. And yet, the festival has managed to stay true to its mission – show though-provoking movies and connect viewers with their makers, even if online.
Arctic Open has deployed its first ever outdoor cinema. Photo: Artem Kelarev/RG
The five festival’s venues in Arkhangelsk and Severodvinsk featured a mixture of online and offline events. Viewers were asked to put on masks and were measured temperature before entering the half-filled cinemas in pursuance of the rules. Admission to Arkhangelsk cinemas was absolutely free. The varied program included 25 feature films, documentaries and animated movies, of which 11 were 2020 premieres. Two films — Dmitry Davydov’s Scarecrow, following a hermit witch doctor, and Andrey Khrzhanovsky’s The Nose Or Conspiracy of Mavericks, which follows the pioneers of art — premiered at Arctic Open even before their big premieres scheduled for February.
Directors and actors from Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and Yakutia were presenting their films personally. Mila Kudryashova brought her new film My Personal Dragon, released with the grant she won after pitching her film idea at last year’s Arctic Open. Yakutia-based filmmaker Lyubov Borisova came to tell about the making of Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, a film about generations of people, on the coast of the Laptev Sea, while actor Anatoly Struchkov won rapturous applause from the audience when presenting another masterpiece from Yakutia – Kinotavr award-winning Scarecrow.
Three filmmakers participated virtually. Playwright and film/stage director Ivan Vyrypaev talked to the audience from Warsaw about theater in cinema and his new film UFO, also screened at Arctic Open. Canada’s silent cinema classis Guy Maddin said he was happy to see his Archangel, set in the Arkhangelsk of the Civil War, played in Arkhangelsk. And animation master Andrey Khrzhanovsky turned his online Q&A into the real joy of communication.
One specific feature about Arctic Open is topicality, and this year it had environment as its core theme. Viewers admitted they had changed their mind about eco-activist Greta Thunberg after watching I am Greta, a documentary by Sweden’s Nathan Grossman, and many said they were impressed by Rediscovery, Denmark’s Phi Ambo’s story of a group of schoolchildren developing the society of the future on an overgrown building site in Copenhagen.
Arctic Open promotes mankind as the bearer of eternal values. The hero of this year’s festival was Joseph Brodsky: the screening of Andrey Khrzhanovsky’s In a Room and A Half… and One and A Half of A Cat was timed to the poet’s 80th anniversary. Visiting the festival was actor and stage director Grigory Dityatkovsky. His playing of Joseph Brodsky was so convincing that one of Brodsky’s friends, Mikhail Baryshnikov, even mistook the film for a documentary.
Arctic Open 2020, held with the support from Arkhangelsk Ministry of Culture, served also as a venue for a serious discussion of the ways to attract big movies to Arkhangelsk. One such way is by offering film production rebates through a dedicated panel. The results can be impressive. One example is Kaliningrad. Previously visited by cinematographers only occasionally, for its “European landscape”, Kaliningrad is now a setting for more than 40 different films. Attracting the attention of both Russian and international film crews is also the Kola Peninsula, followed by Arkhangelsk, known as the land of Pomors, which was chosen for the renowned Epidemic and actor and producer Kirill Zaitsev’s short film Sasha. The Soldier’s Diary. Karelian people have come up with the idea of creating a digital map of film locations spanning the three northern regions, which, according to some film producers, can be expected to be success.
Tamara Starikova, Arctic Open IFF Director:
“I would say we have succeeded in compiling a selection that featured both popular and independent films. What is more, we broke down the borders in a broad sense – the spatial borders, because viewers could talk to the filmmakers from anywhere in the world, thousands kilometers away, and the borders between cinema and theater, which became possible thanks to Ivan Vyrypaev, who is currently on cinema+theater projects. The border between the World Wide Web and the big screen seems to be no more: one illustration is web series You Are From The Future and web film All Winter Through that went from the Internet to the big screen.”