The eighth Odessa International Film Festival is finally upon us and is set to run between July 14- 22. After eight days that shall doubtless be filled with the greatest emotion and aesthetic bliss, the OIFF will announce the winners of the festival, including the festival’s Grand Prix Golden Duke.
This iteration of the festival is set to feature myriad films in the National Competition Program, the International Competition Program, as well as a documentary category and a non-competition set of Gala Premieres and a Festival of Festivals programs.
The International Competition Program consists of 12 films from 27 countries (which includes co-production) including offerings from China, Serbia, Australia, Lithuania, Israel, Estonia, France, Brazil, Georgia, Belgium and Spain. One of the most noteworthy entries of International Competition Programs this year will be Sharunas Bartas’s “Frost” starring the French actress Vanessa Paradis. The psychological war drama is a Ukrainian, Lithuania, Polish and French co-production. The film was partially shot in Kyiv and Eastern Ukraine under the support of the State Agency of Ukraine for Film Industry. Some commentators have already claimed that “Frost” will go down in cinematic history alongside the works of Martin Scorsese and Philippe Garrel but this remains to be seen.
Another notable work to be featured in the International Competition Programs is the French feature film “Orphan”, which was directed by Arnaud des Pallières, and stars Adele Haenel and Adele Exarchopoulos. Haenel is well known to Ukrainian film lovers for her recent role in Léa Fehner’s film “Ogres”. That film was presented at last year’s OIFF in the summer of 2016. Adele Exarchopoulos also received recognition for her role in Abdellatif Kechiche’s film La Vie d’Adèle (“Blue Is the Warmest Color”), which was the winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
This year, 23 Ukrainian films will take part in all the different film programs of the festival. Two of these weill participate in both the International and the National Competitions: “Ugly” directed by Juri Rechynsky and “Black Level” which was directed by Valentyn Vasyanovych. The lead actress of Vasyanovych’s film Kateryna Molchanova is on her way to becoming a Ukrainian film star, and was nominated for a National Film Award “The Golden Dziga” for her role in Olena Demyanenko’s film “My Grandmother Fanny Kaplan”. The feature was presented during the OIFF in the summer of 2016. Odessa International Film Festival will become a platform for the world premiere of her feature while the premiere of “Ugly” took place at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR).
The National Competition Program will also include six features and 17 short films. OIFF announced the full list of features among them “Falling” which was directed by Maryna Stepanska, “The Strayed” directed by Arkadii Nepytalyuk, “Dixie Land” directed by Roman Bondarchuk and Serhiy Bukovsky’s “The Leading Role” — which was also the winner of the first Ukrainian Film Award “The Golden Dziga” in the best documentary feature category. The picture stars the actress Nina Antonova — who is the director’s mother. It is a very personal story that touches on themes of sacrifice and freedom, and the dialogue is filled with memories of prior triumphs that came about in the relationship between the mother and her son. “The Leading Role” will also be presented in both the National Competition Programs and the Documentary Competition. This year the documentary film category will consist of eight powerful features including Andres Veiel’s “Beuys“, the nominee for Golden Bear at the 2017 Berlinale. The jurors of the Documentary Competition will be the directors Marianna Kaat (Estonia), Tala Hadid (Great Britain) and Roman Bondarchuk. It should be noted that the very talented Bondarchuk has recently received a great deal of recognition for his film “Ukrainian Sheriffs”, which was the winner of the special jury prize in the main competition of the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam (IDFA). The Ukrainian Oscar Committee announced that “Ukrainian Sheriffs” would be the Ukrainian choice for the Best Foreign-Language Film category at the 2017 Academy Awards in LA.
The jury of the International Competition is to be headed by German director Christian Petzold, who took home the Silver Bear at the 62nd Berlin Film Festival. The jury consists of the Turkish actress Sibel Kekilli; Film festival head Tudor Giurgiu; film composer Evgeniy Galperin and the actress Rimma Zyubina, winner of the Ukrainian Film Award Golden Dzyga for Best Actress for her part in Taras Tkachenko’s film “The Nest of the Turtledove”. The jurors of the National Competition will be the French Film critic Сharles Tesson, Ukrainian film director Nataliya Vorozhbit and the Irish actor Aidan Turner, who is famous for his role as a dwarf in the Hobbit trilogy. Turner has been a close friend of the OIFF since 2014.
The annual open-air screening on the steps of the Potemkin Stairs — a unique and beloved annual event at the OIFF will take place on July 15th. The event bills itself as one of the largest open-air screenings in all of Europe and this year will present “The Ladies’ Paradise”, a silent film made by the French director Julien Duvivier in 1930. Last year, audiences were captivated by silent a version of “Sherlock Holmes” from 1916. Copies of the reel had only been found in 2015 year and were presented along with the musical accompaniment of the classic film composer Donald Sosin. The screening of the Duvivier film will take place along with the musical accompaniment of the Canadian composer Gabriel Thibodeau, and the vocal performance of soprano Sophie Fournier. This year will mark the first time that the open-air screenings on the Potemkin Stairs will be presented along with accompaniment of the symphony orchestra as well as a vocalist.
Ulyana Dovgan is the The Odessa Review film critic.