No longer international: the war left the MIFF without stars on the jury and with Indian cinema in the repertoire

Throughout its long history, the Moscow International Festival has never been in such an unpleasant situation as it is today. Neither the suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, nor the unprecedented pressure on the selection committee in 1963 (the authorities insisted on awarding the main prize to the mediocre Soviet film "Meet Baluev", but the chairman of the jury, Grigory Chukhrai, threatening to resign, insisted that the award be presented "Eight and a Half" by Fellini), neither the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, nor the entry of troops into Afghanistan in 1979, nor the Chechen wars in 1994 and 1999, nor the armed conflict with Georgia in 2008, neither the annexation of Crimea in 2014, nor the covid-19 had such an impact on the festival as the “special military operation” in Ukraine and the sanctions that followed it, which drastically reduced its ability to receive films from abroad, and not only from countries that condemned military actions of Russia against Ukraine.

Contrary to the roundabouts of the MIFF officials, opportunities were limited not because of "logistical difficulties", but because of the boycott. And also because the International Federation of Producers Associations (FIAPF) deprived the festival of the highest category "A", assigned to the most significant world film forums - Cannes, Venice and Berlin.

A significant role in the decline in the prestige of the MIFF was played by its irremovable president for almost a quarter of a century, he is also the People's Artist of Russia Nikita Mikhalkov with his Besogon-TV channel. As you know, he approves of any actions of the authorities and repeats propaganda clichés either about the “liberal Atlantic dictatorship”, or about special biological weapons that infect the Slavs (“It turned out that biological weapons were tested on Ukrainian volunteers. And another plus to this is birds who were infected with this, and their flight trajectory through Russia was calculated. This is an absolutely fascist attempt to exterminate the Slavic ethnic group as such. This is a global story, given that all this has been prepared by and large for many centuries ... "). Or he allows himself frankly Nazi statements , including on the eve of the opening of the film forum (“The phrases of the Ukrainian language themselves are a formulation of hatred for Russia, and if subjects are taught in Ukrainian, this is a disaster, this is an absolute mine laid under the whole story”).

Mikhalkov allowed himself frankly Nazi statements right on the eve of the opening of the festival

The external problems of the MIFF this year were supplemented by internal ones, when its ex-chairman, honorary president of the Association of International Film Press (FIPRESCI) Andrey Plakhov left the selection committee of the festival, saying that cooperation with the MIFF became impossible due to the fact that Mikhalkov supported Russia's military actions against Ukraine. Simultaneously with Plakhov, the well-known TV presenter and documentary filmmaker Pyotr Shepotinnik, who was appointed its head in early December last year, was removed from the commission. Thus, the festival lost the most authoritative film critics, whose international connections ensured the quality of the competition, author's programs and retrospectives. They were replaced by those who did not hesitate to take the positions of the retired and dismissed colleagues that had not yet cooled down. The same applies to the jury of the Russian film press, which did not include well-known film critics, some of whom, as it turned out at the end of the festival, without saying a word, for the first time in decades of work, did not even begin to be accredited.

Due to all these factors, the duration of the MIFF was reduced to eight days, the international competition - to nine films, which had to include a whole third of domestic ones, the number of author's programs and foreign guests decreased. The presence of world movie stars of the rank of Jack Nicholson, Jeanne Moreau, Francis Ford Coppola, Meryl Streep, Harvey Keitel, Fanny Ardant, Isabelle Huppert and Quentin Tarantino, who flew to the MIFF in the first years of Mikhalkov's presidency, was reduced to zero.

The organizers, of course, resorted to "import substitution", establishing a national competition - a shadow of what was at Kinotavr, canceled due to the return to Ukraine of its main organizer, the largest producer Alexander Rodnyansky, who decided to refuse any cooperation with Russian filmmakers.

The program was filled with films from "friendly" countries, with particular hope for India, whose films were successful in the Soviet years, as if Bollywood could fill the void left by Hollywood. The level of preparation of the 44th Moscow Film Festival is also evidenced by the website, on the front page of which it is written in white on black: “it was held for the first time in 1935, the chairman of the jury was Sergei Eisenstein”, although in fact the chairman was the then head of the Soviet film industry Boris Shumyatsky, who spoiled Eisenstein had a lot of blood and was shot in 1938 on a case fabricated by the Chekists.

Screenshot from the official website of the Moscow International Film Festival

In the same style, without capital letters, annotations to films are given, of which the following takes the first place in terms of illiteracy:

“Asiye, 43, is a director at their private theater company. after the death of his father, Umut was sent to live with his uncle in Bursa, because his mother married a man with three children. for twenty years Umut had no contact with her, until he was informed that she was seriously ill and had come to Bursa. now he will be forced to take care of her. At the same time, Umut finds out about Asia's pregnancy. The situation he finds himself in turns his whole life upside down.”

Somehow imperceptibly, but symbolically, the former motto of the Moscow International Film Festival "For the humanism of cinema, for peace and friendship between peoples!" disappeared, instead of which a faded "Search and discovery" appeared. Now, during the war, that old motto would look, to put it mildly, out of place.

On top of that, the time of the festival was chosen extremely poorly: the last days of the last month of summer, stuffiness in the capital, the first of September is on the nose, parents equip their children for school - the Moscow public is not up to the cinema, and even in Italy on August 31 one of the two largest world film festivals - Venice. The decline in interest was clearly expressed in numbers - for example, the MIFF 2014, according to Mikhalkov, was visited by 75 thousand people, and the MIFF 2022, according to its general producer Leonid Vereshchagin, was only 30 thousand, 2.5 times less (and even this number is questionable). But this hardly upset the organizers - for them, apparently, it was most important for them to become attached to the Day of Russian Cinema, memorable for the fact that on August 19, 1919, the Council of People's Commissars adopted a decree on the gratuitous expropriation of the film industry by the state, that is, simply put, robbed the industrialists and enslaved domestic cinema, depriving it of the opportunity to take its rightful place in the global film market.

By the way, many Russian participants of the MIFF also found themselves in an unenviable semi-serfdom position, condemning the invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine in their hearts, understanding that they were being used, but, like some characters in the famous film, could not refuse the offer to take part in the Mikhalkov event.

It is also symbolic that at the opening of the festival they solemnly commemorated Daria Dugina, who died from the terrorist attack, and at the closing they honored the memory of Mikhail Gorbachev, as if equalizing two incommensurable personalities; in the absence of noble foreigners, the Stanislavsky “I Believe” prize was awarded to the obviously embarrassed and embarrassed Konstantin Khabensky. Mikhalkov delivered a speech that was compared to a sermon in the MK report. It talked about the "birth of a new country" - although it would be appropriate to say about a historically doomed attempt to reanimate the old one.