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“I love you”: the XXI International Festival “Spirit of Fire” opening ceremony

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The opening ceremony of the XXI International Debut Film Festival “Spirit of Fire” took place on March 3 in the concert and theatre centre “Yugra-Classic” in Khanty-Mansiysk. Among guests on the red carpet were Pavel Lungin, Yulia Peresild, Anna Mikhalkova, Sergey Garmash, Alexey Mizgirev, Elena Panova, Anton Megirdichev, Marietta Tsigal-Polishchuk, Lyanka Gryu, Ksenia Surkova, Elena Nikolaeva, Pavel Barshak, Artem Kid and participants of the Russian and international competition programs, out of competition screenings and business program.
 Natalia Komarova, Governor of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District – Yugra, remarked that the International Debut Film Festival “Spirit of Fire” is a world famous event. “We do everything possible to achieve maximum recognition. Also, we expand the region’s capabilities in film production. We are putting in place a support system for such projects and young talent development programs. One of the projects is an exchange program for film students from our partner countries. This year we placed an emphasis on the film dialogue with India, our guest country at the festival,” she said. 
 The ceremony was hosted by the Honoured Artist of Russia Yulia Peresild and Bogdan Kiyashko, a theatre and film actor, graduate of Sergei Solovyov class. On stage he paid tribute to his teacher: it was Sergei Solovyov who determined the “Spirit of Fire” trajectory and laid the groundwork for its development.
 “The Khanty-Mansi District is our company’s homeplace, our relationships with the region date back a long time. Here, with our partners support, we implement projects aimed at improving the quality of life. The “Spirit of Fire” has become the most important cultural event for the Yugra people, and for many years it has been making the region a part of the international film culture. This year, thanks to the professional team headed by Emir Kusturica, we have prepared an excellent program. The festival has entered a new stage of development and, based on the traditions laid down by its founders, it makes an important step forward,” said Alexander Dybal, a member of the management board of Gazprom Neft, when he was on the stage.
 He also told about “miraculous omens”: 40 years ago, at the Venice Film Festival, the would-be first president of the Spirit of Fire, Sergei Solovyov, presented the Best Debut Award to a young filmmaker – who was Emir Kusturica. 
 Alexander Dybal, in addition to his other duties, is an honorary consul of Serbia in Russia. He lent his services to invite Emir Kusturica to be the new festival president, and the renowned director eventually accepted the offer. Alas, due to an injury he sustained in the mountains, Emir Kusturica could not make it to the opening ceremony, but the audience got to see the festival president in a video message. 
 “I am sorry I will not be there at the opening of the Spirit of Fire film festival. I am greatly attached to Russian culture, but absurd as it is, I broke a leg. I love you. If everything goes all right, I will join you by the end of the festival.”
 In order to start the Festival officially, the Governor of Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District Natalia Komarova took the stage. She remarked that the tradition is 21 years old, and together with Maria Zvereva, the Festival vice-president, they operated a clapperboard and announced the Festival oficially open.
 The ceremony ended with an ethnic dedication ritual: an acrobatic performance by the Russian circus group “The Bastrigin Brothers”. Aerial gymnasts, following ancient customs of Khanty and Mansi, tied colourful ribbons to birch branches descending from the ceiling, thus symbolically marking the rebirth of the festival in a new format. 
 The ceremony wrapped up with the “Symphony of the North” performed by the Yugra Concert Orchestra and soloists of the world’s only Women’s Symphony Orchestra.