“The edge of the world”. Lyubov Barabashova about the objectionable film festival

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For many years, the last week of August in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk was held under the banner of the “End of the World” film festival. In 2021, they planned to solemnly celebrate the anniversary, but first the covid prevented it, and then…

Every day, Facebook publishes memories related to the film festival, and if earlier there was hope that it would return, now it has become obvious: “The End of the World” is incompatible with the current reality.

Sakhalin Film Festival appeared in 2011. By this time, thanks to international oil and gas projects operating at full capacity, Sakhalin became fabulously rich. One of the few donor regions, the leader in attracted investments, budget revenues – he has turned into a nouveau riche, who wastes money on the ready. Projects began, one more expensive than the other – the most expensive ice palace in the Far East, the largest water park in the Federal District… The film festival was one of such megaprojects. By that time, “Meridians of the Pacific” had already been held in Vladivostok, and “Amur Autumn” in Blagoveshchensk. And now, finally, Sakhalin has its own film festival.

Director Alla Surikova, who held the first film festival, which was called “Sakhalin Screen”, put together a program of “usual, favorite and only for you”. Russian films shot in the last two years participated in the competition, the old guard walked the red carpet: Aleksey Buldakov, Olga Kabo, Dmitry Pevtsov, Leonid Yakubovych, Boris Grachevsky.

The festival was no worse than that of the neighbors. But not better.
The following year, Surikova proposed Alexei Agranovich as the general producer of the festival. He is an actor, a director, but he is even better known among cinematographers as a producer of perhaps the largest ceremonies and shows – from “Kinotavra” to TEFI.

Cinematographer Alexey Medvedev became the program director of the festival. He was the curator of many film forums, including “Message to Man”, “Zerkalo” and others.
With their arrival, everything changed.

The festival became international, changed its name to “End of the World”. But most importantly, the attitude towards the people of Sakhalin has changed. From mere spectators, we became accomplices. Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk was overflowing with the film festival – street exhibitions and concerts, night screenings under the open sky, a bookstore, Q&A tents, where films were discussed with the creators.

A multimedia project in which Sakhalin residents tell the history of their families, how they ended up on the island, exhibitions of local photographers – all this was also part of the film festival. As well as workshops. They were conducted by the best: experts from the “Strelka” institute worked together with the people of Sakhalin on urban planning projects, Tikhon Dzyadko and the “Arzamas” team taught journalism. St. Petersburg animation studio “Yes!” showed children how to create cartoons.

Aleksey Agranovych said that the task of the festival is to show that life is not somewhere far away, in the capital. This is what is happening here. You can even make a movie on Sakhalin. The workshop of cinematographers “European-Asiat” was created, a regional fund appeared, which allocated money to local directors and screenwriters. Later, their works were also included in the festival program.

As for movie screenings, Alexey Medvedev selected the program without discount for the unsophisticated local audience: on Sakhalin, they showed author’s, conceptual, original films from directors from all over the world.

I would be lying if I said that it was easy to watch and understand such a movie. Here is a film from Thailand about a girl with a pimple on her nose. Here is a bizarre story by an Indonesian director about a brother and sister, heavily mixed with Balinese beliefs, in which a boy is dying of cancer, and his sister is trying to make sense of it.

– Very unusual cinema. Very unusual, – my husband said respectfully to me once after the session. – Can I wait for you in the lobby next time?

But we did a lot of spectator work. The exhibition halls were full. 30 thousand people visited the cinemas during the last “End of the World”. And this is in a city with a population of less than 200 thousand.

Literally every guest of the festival talked about the unique audience of “Krai sveta”. The well-known Chinese director Jia Zhangke and the Indian Anand Gandhi, like many others, admitted that thinking, involved, interested people of Sakhalin were their main surprise and joy at the festival.

The Filipino Love Diaz brought his uncompromising films with a duration of 6–8 hours each to Venice and Berlin. But where, apart from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, did local residents recognize him and stop him on the street to discuss competitive films?

And all this for us was connected with Agranovich and Medvedev. Whatever actors or directors walked the red carpet, they were greeted the loudest.

When in 2015 Oleg Kozhemyako was sent to Sakhalin to serve as governor instead of Alexander Khoroshavin, who was arrested for taking bribes, he was asked at the first meeting with the population whether our film festival would be preserved. He promised that it was necessary. And he saved, however, expelled the organizers and brought a team that held the “Amur Autumn” film festival in Blagoveshchensk, where he had previously been in charge.

I was in Blagoveshchensk during the days of the festival, and if it weren’t for a couple of banners, I wouldn’t have realized that the film forum was taking place. She asked the heralds about “Amur autumn”. I was told how actresses who came from Moscow were taken to Shanghai for fur coats.

We have to give credit to producer Sergey Novozhilov and program director Aleksandra Zhukova: they understood that the bar for “Kraya Sveta” was high and tried to please both ours and yours. Our guest of honor is Steven Seagal, yours is Krzysztof Zanussi as the chairman of the jury.

Novozhilov and Zhukova put together a very strong program. There were many master cles. But in the new “Krae sveta 2016” there was one cardinal difference: the organizers clearly separated themselves and the people of Sakhalin. They are the creators of the service. We are consumers. This was manifested in the new accreditation quotas for newsrooms (“send texts that were previously written about the festival”), and in the fact that bloggers and amateur photographers, who under the previous team enjoyed the same rights as journalists, were cut off from the festival . And in the anthem (!) of the festival, which (there were rumors that the budget was 800,000 rubles) was written by authors from Belarus who do not even know what “The End of the World” and Sakhalin are. “To the joy of all of Sakhalin, the festival life is roaring,” – thundered the male choir at the opening ceremony, and we looked at each other in amazement – all this had nothing to do with our festival. And how Valdys Pelsh, who was invited to conduct the closing ceremony, with the intonations of an experienced toastmaster, reprimanded the hall for insufficiently loud applause. The organizers took us for those who, having encountered a star at the door of the toilet, were lucky enough to take a selfie.

In a country where public opinion means nothing, it suddenly won

The dissatisfaction of the Sakhalin residents was so obvious that Kozhemiako had to return the former team. In a country where public opinion means nothing, it suddenly won. Pelsh would have been envious if he had heard the ovations given to Agranovich, who, when he appeared on the stage in 2017, said: “Hello again.” The last festival took place in 2018.

And there will be no more “End of the World”. It is understandable. Which of the worthy foreign authors will come to present their picture in present-day Russia? And who will be invited to conduct master cles when the talented are not equally loyal and predictable? In 2015, after learning of the sentencing of Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov, Oleg Klymov, who supervised the photography workshop at “Krae Sveta”, came out with a poster in support of the convicted. Even then, Oleg was expelled from the festival. Now he wouldn’t get off so easily. As well as the organizers of the festival.

It is difficult to imagine that the Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf can now head the jury of the Russian festival, as it was at “Krae sveta” before. He also supported Sentsov.

“Do not the shabby houses and sad yards shown in the film denigrate Sakhalin?” – was heard in 2017 during the discussion of the wonderful picture “In the arms of the sea”, shot by the Moiseev brothers from Sakhalin. Lyubov Ovsyannikova, the actress in the film, made everyone laugh, trying to boo the questioner. And today it is possible to close the question about insufficient patriotism, did the accused simply mock the absurdity?

In 2013, the Japanese Reta Nikano, presenting his most tender film “Impress the Father”, said that he ociates Sakhalin with the rainbow that hung over the city when he and the audience went out into the street after discussing his film. Some viewer, fascinated by the author and the film, suggested making the rainbow a symbol of the film festival. Everyone joked that the rainbow was already igned to LGBT people. Now the topic of LGBT is not laughed at in our country. What fun is there when there is a criminal article.

Now the showing of such a cartoon can be equated with a treasonous family

In the old herbivore times, Alexei Medvedev was reprimanded by the local history museum staff for the fact that the Japanese cartoon “Giovanna’s Island” about Shikotan, an island in the Lesser Kuril Range, which after 1945 ped from Japan to the USSR, was slanderous, once it was shown that there were camps on Sakhalin , where the Soviet troops placed the Japanese. Now the showing of such a cartoon can be equated with a treasonous family. Maybe there is already an article on this topic, there are so many of them, it will not be followed. Although in fact “Giovanna’s Island” is a story about the fact that even in the most difficult conflicts there is a place for humanity and kindness.

Today, the “End of the World” – the real, important, standing thing that appeared on Sakhalin – will not be able to exist, simply because such a festival does not correspond to the spirit of the present time.

And recently it became known about the death of the curator of the festival Alexey Medvedev. He left home and disappeared on July 21. Relatives and friends have been looking for him for almost a month. On August 18, it became known that he was dead. Ego was hit by a train on July 22.

And there is some tragic symbolism in that death.

PS The Sakhalin authorities tried to come up with a replacement for “The Edge of the World”. In August, they invited the people of Sakhalin to attend street movie screenings. The program included the Russian films “Cheburashka”, “Vyzov”, “Holop”, “Pravednyk”, which have ped the current censorship.

Lyubov Barabashova is a Sakhalin journalist

The points of view expressed in the “Opinions” column may not coincide with the position of the editors

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