Vladivostok’s 16th Pacific Meridian International Film Festival of Asian Pacific Countries took place from September 21st to 27th 2018.
The town of Vladivostok, founded in 1860, has quickly evolved into a big city thanks to the Trans-Siberian Railway and its commercial and military port.
Vladivostok’s festival organizers are very proud that actor Yul Brunner has been born in the city back in 1920.
This year’s programme included 199 long and short, fiction and documentary features in different sections: Competition, Panorama, Russian Cinema, Tribute to Yamamura Koji (animation director under both Occidental and Japanese influence, a true revelation), Moving Forward, Documentaries, “Family Time” topic, horror movies (After Midnight), Russian Animation, Ingmar Bergman retrospective, film school movies, including productions of Vladivostok’s movie school.
The festival’s 16th edition also had two very different guests of honour - Hollywood actress Andy MacDowell (Steven Soderbergh’s Sex Lies and Videotape;) Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) and Russian-American actor Steven Seagal (Nico and Under Siege, both by director Andrew Davis).
There were three different Juries: International, Critic and Netpac; the first two had to judge Official Competitions’ short and long features; the third Jury reviewed a selection of Asian titles included in different sections.
The Netpac Jury was composed by Martine Thérouanne (President), Founder and Director of Vesoul’s International Film Festival of Asian Cinemas, Bae Chang-ho, Film Director and the Director of the Ulju Mountain Film Festival , Korea and Maria Kuvshinova, Russian film critic.
The selection of Asian movies included in different sections for the Netpac jury’s review included eight titles: Taiwanese documentary filmmaker Lifang Lin’s Tsunma, Tsunma: My Summer with the Female Monastics of the Himalaya, Taiwanese director Zhou Quan’s End Of Summer, Iranian director Vahid Jalilvand’s No Date, No Signature, Vladimir Bitokov’s Deep Rivers (Russia), Denis Shabaev’s Mira (Russia), Naeem Mohaimen’s Tripoli Cancel (Bangladesh), Cai Chengjie’s The Widowed Witch (China) and Hu Bo’s An Elephant Sitting Still (China).
The latter two Chinese titles stood clearly above six other for the actors’ performance, the script’s originality, the storytelling and the camerawork.
After an interesting and passionate debate, the Jury decided to grant the Netpac Award to Hu Bo’s 4-hours-long movie An Elephant Sitting Still, included in Panorama section. Hu Bo is a director gone too early: An Elephant Sitting Still is Hu Bo's his first and last feature. He seemed a promising director, for his careful mise-en-scène, his remarkable direction of his actors and his characters’ well-drawn psychology. The Competition section included another remarkable Chinese title, Cai Chengjie’s The Widowed Witch. The International Jury, with Russian director Aleksey German Jr. (as President), granted the movie several awards, such as for Best Feature (a conch made of blue navy crystal). The Widowed Witch has also been granted FIPRESCI Award for Best Feature Film.
The festival’s opening ceremony took place in Mariinsky Theatre, whereas the closing ceremony happened to be in Okean IMAX Cinema. The multiplex includes four theaters, a new terrace-view restaurant and a venue for press conferences and a screening room.
After a whole day of screenings (10 am – 8 pm), guests were treated every night to a different restaurant not only to learn more about the Russian spirit but also to discuss cinema, art etc., which allowed for better connections among people than the usual superficial networking meetings during the so-called Stand Up Parties.
Vladivostok’s Pacific Meridian International Film Festival certainly stands to its reputation as a friendly, heart-warming and fraternal festival with a soul.
-- Martine Thérouanne