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The XXII International Debut Film Festival Spirit of Fire has announced its program

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The official press conference took place on March 11

The event was attended by the Governor of the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region – Ugra Natalya Komarova, Special Presidential Representative for International Cultural Cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoy, Head of the Department of Cinematography and Digital Development of the Russian Ministry of Culture Dmitry Davidenko, Director of the Department of Multilateral Humanitarian Cooperation and Cultural Relations of Russia’s Foreign Ministry Alexander Alimov, Vice President of Spirit of Fire festival Maria Zvereva, chairman of the selection committee of the festival Pyotr Shepotinnik, deputy director of the Roscongress Foundation Elena Marinina and deputy general director of Gazprom-Media Holding Yulia Golubeva.

The XXII International Film Debut Festival Spirit of Fire will take place on March 23-26 in Khanty-Mansiysk and it is included in the program of Russia’s chairmanship of the BRICS association in 2024.

Participants of the international and Russian competition programs, the full jury of the main and Russian competitions were announced at the press conference, the business program was also presented.

This year, the festival will feature the best films by directors from Russia and from 10 countries around the world. The theme of the festival is The special language of national cinematography. The operator of events in line with Russia’s chairmanship of the BRICS association is the Roscongress Foundation that is also the communication partner of the festival. 

Natalya Komarova recalled that Spirit of Fire was primarily conceived “not as a festival for the sake of a festival, but as a high-tech platform.”

“The festival is one of the main brands for our region. And we strive to use this platform in a high-tech way to promote cultural values and accumulated traditions. It’s our ancient land, where indigenous peoples also live – Khanty, Mansi, Nenets. And this platform gives us the opportunity to tell the whole world about the region in a completely different way,” she pointed out.

Natalya Komarova told about the results that had been reached following the partnership agreements with India at last year’s festival. For instance, an Indian director Gajendra Ahire has made a film under the working title The Snow Flower. The Ugra Media Holding contributed to the selection of the characters, costumes, locations, and creation of conditions. Employees of the media holding also starred in some roles.

The Snow Flower is the first such project developed in cooperation between the film industries of Russia and India. That is how our region has become a pioneer in the implementation of film partnership between the two countries,” she emphasized.

This year at the Spirit of Fire producers Ekaterina Filippova (Russia) and Sarfaraz Alam Safu (India) will also sign an agreement on a new project, The Pearls, directed by Tina Barclay. The film will be filmed in Moscow, Mumbai and Khanty-Mansiysk. The producers have met at a film festival last year. “So there are grounds for moving to specific partnership projects and relationships,” summed up the governor of Ugra.

She also added that the upcoming Spirit of Fire festival is included in the program of Russia’s chairmanship of the BRICS association in 2024.

“The current festival, of course, will have its own characteristics. Far more films have been made, and a wider field has been created for the appearance of debutants, because the industry requires more and more new names. And new names come. I’m talking about Russian cinema now, but the situation in the world is quite similar. Especially in the countries that will be represented at the festival this year, including the BRICS countries. Of course, it is especially important to note the fact that today there are many new guys in the CIS countries – in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus. I think that in the year of Russia’s chairmanship of BRICS and the CIS, your festival will be the first huge, powerful evidence that there is a single space between these countries, and it will bring a lot of interesting things, it will bring new discoveries, new names, new contracts,” – Mikhail Shvydkoy pointed out.

Dmitry Davidenko, Head of the Department of Cinematography and Digital Development of the Ministry of Culture, noted that Spirit of Fire is a festival with a very important mission: it is a platform for discovering new names and projects. The festival will take place for the 22nd time, and every time it attracts full halls. In his opinion, the international festival of debut films “gives us the opportunity to share our work and to watch what young talented filmmakers are shooting in different parts of the world.”

Participants of the press conference also noted that next year the dates of the festival may be extended. The program is constantly expanding, and Spirit of Fire has long been not only about films, but also includes a business program, a platform for communication and exchange of experience and ideas, and four days are no longer enough for this.

Alexander Alimov heads one of the youngest departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whose tasks include supporting and promoting cultural and humanitarian projects and initiatives aimed at expanding the Russian cultural presence and popularizing Russian multinational culture abroad. The department forms international cultural cooperation on the basis of openness, equality, mutual respect for sovereign cultures as opposed to vulgar cultural globalization.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to act as an ally of the Spirit of Fire festival organizers.” This is one of the most successful and sought-after initiatives in the field of international cooperation between filmmakers. The theme of this year’s festival, A Special Language of National Cinematography, is deeply consonant with the concept of BRICS as a prototype of multipolarity or polycentricity, the key element of which is respect for the cultural and civilizational diversity of the world.”  He also said that the festival will include discussions on the development of the film industry of the BRICS countries, film education and cultural exchange. One of the key events is a separate session and a competition of the BRICS countries in the Work in Progress program.

Maria Zvereva introduced the festival jury, noting that each of the members of the international jury is “a major filmmaker and also an iconic figure in their country.”

The international competition will be judged by the director, screenwriter, production designer, composer, one of the most titled Hungarian cinematographers of the 21st century Benedek Fligauf (chairman of the jury), who was the winner of the II Spirit of Fire, Indian director and screenwriter P. S. Vinotraj, who won the main prize of the Spirit of Fire 2 years ago, Iranian director and screenwriter Nooshin Meraji, as well as a Russian film critic, curator, program director of the Khudozhestvenny cinema, program director of the festival of contemporary Russian cinema Mayak Stas Tyrkin.

The jury of this year’s Russian Debut Competition include: director and screenwriter Alexander Veledinsky (chairman of the jury), composer, People’s Artist of Russia Maxim Dunaevsky, theater and film actress, honorary artist of the city of Moscow Svetlana Ivanova, cameraman Edurad Moshkovich, director, screenwriter, producer Angelina Nikonova, as well as a theater and film actor Maxim Stoyanov.

Pyotr Shepotinnik presented a program of Russian and international debuts. He pointed out that a lot of films were sent to the festival, not only from the BRICS countries, but also from Germany, Portugal and other countries.

“The films are very different in style. There is a coming-of-age drama, there are musical films, and there are absolutely experimental films,” noted the festival selector.

                                 Films from the International Debut Competition:

“Error 404”, Kyrgyzstan, director Tynchtyk Abylkasymov

“Bauyrina salu”, Kazakhstan, director Askhat Kuchinchirekov

“In a Circle”, Iran, director Maysam Hasanzadeh

“Abduction”, India, director Karan Tejpal

“Property”, Brazil, directed by Daniel Bandeira

“Angle of Inclination”, Russia, directors Anna Dalinger, Stanislav Fomichev

                                   Films of the Russian Debut Competition:

“12 Floors Later”, directed by Jeff Agayev

“Encounters”, directed by Dmitry Moiseev

“Cuba, Marina” Director Konstantin Bogoslavsky, Russia – Israel

“Lapin”, directors Asya Oleshkevich, Vlad Krasnoslobodtsev

“Lisbon”, director Svetlana Filippova

“The Last Price”, directed by Naur Garmelia

The opening film will be the Russian film “Abnormal” by Ilya Malanin, inspired by a true story. The film tells the story of a boy, Kolya, who is trying to overcome a congenital disease by learning to play the piano. The festival will close with the film “She’s Dancing” by Oksana Degtyareva. Its main character Olga is not just interested in dancing, it’s her way of communicating with the world and people.

Elena Marinina reported that this year the main country represented at the festival as part of Russia’s BRICS chairmanship will be Iran. The festival will be attended by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran Kazem Jalali, the head of the cultural representative office at the Iranian Embassy in the Russian Federation Masoud Ahmadvand, as well as the famous Iranian actor and director Behrouz Shoaibi. “As part of the festival, a Russian-Iranian cultural dialogue will take place. And I hope that agreements will be concluded and new cooperation will be established as a result. Indeed, we now see the great mutual interest between Russia and Iran,” she noted. The session on education as an investment in the future of the film industry will bring together leading representatives of educational organizations of Russia, Brazil, and the UAE.

The Spirit of Fire Festival is a unique platform where you can see a huge number of high-quality films, exchange experiences with other countries and initiate new international projects. The partnership of the Spirit of Fire film festival with Gazprom-Media Holding will tell an audience of million people about bright film debuts and development prospects for young filmmakers. I am sure that the film festival will discover many new talents, and we in turn will help present them to a wide audience,” said Deputy General Director of Gazprom-Media Holding, Yulia Golubeva.

Since 2002, the festival has been held with the constant support of the Government of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug – Ugra. Since 2022, film director Emir Kusturica has become the new president of the festival.

The cultural and educational program of the Spirit of Fire was prepared with the assistance of the general partner – the Gazprom Neft company, which has been supporting the festival for 18 years.