One of the most intriguing aspects of this week’s Lone Star International Film Festival, now underway in and around Sundance Square in Fort Worth, is the concentration on contemporary films from Russia. Five feature-length works comprise a kind of Moscow-on-the-Trinity, starting with tonight’s screening of Nirvana.
How does something like this happen? What’s the connection between the former Communist state and Cowtown?
J. Mitchell Johnson, president of the Lone Star board, has an ongoing relationship with the Russian filmmaking community dating back to the mid-1990s, when he created a Russian version of 20/20 with ABC News. Since then, his company, Abamedia, has gone on to become the official trade representative for the Russian government film and photo archive, and he produced the miniseries Red Files: Secrets from the Russian Archives for PBS in 2000.
For this year’s second annual Lone Star festival, Johnson snagged Kirill Razlogov, a Russian film critic and former artistic director of the Moscow International Film Festival, as visiting artistic director. Razlogov selected three films to showcase, and festival organizers, with help from the Russian motion-picture academy and the American Film Festival of Moscow, rounded out the program with two other selections.
These are modern-day stories set in a post-Cold War, post-perestroika Russia, with characters on the move, and they come at a particularly historic time as tensions increase between a resurgent Russia and its neighbors:
In the stylized, makeup- and costume-driven Nirvana, a Moscovite heads to St. Petersburg and takes up with a pair of junkies. Cast member Olga Sutulova in attendance. (6 p.m. Thursday at Four Day Weekend Theater, and 4:30 p.m. Sunday at AMC Palace)
Loosely based on 12 Angry Men, 12 follows the deliberations of a culturally and economically diverse jury deciding the fate of a Chechen teen accused of killing his Russian stepfather. (7:30 p.m. Friday at AMC Palace)
A woman widowed by the Chechen war struggles to find love again in Mona Lisa on the Asphalt. Cast member Natalia Naumova in attendance. (1 p.m. Saturday at AMC Palace)
Festival director Dennis Bishop calls The Banishment a “tone poem.” It concerns a man who moves his family from the city to the countryside of his childhood. Director Andrey Zvyagintsev in attendance. (4 p.m. Saturday at AMC Palace)
The one Russian film set in the past, Live to Remember, follows a World War II soldier’s wife as she deals with the sudden arrival of her AWOL husband. (9 p.m. Saturday at AMC Palace)