Russian Snark gets a screening in Paris at the Australian Embassy on the 24th January and then I head to Rotterdam for the Producers Lab with Stephen’s next film Distant Fires – under my arm!
Rotterdam Lab: 78 producers going Dutch
Although it would perhaps be possible to write the plot outline of this modest but quietly impressive feature on a very small piece of paper, the protagonists here and a few of the marginal characters bring such insightful portrayals that it keeps attention for all its 80 minutes.
First time feature director and writer Sinclair — who co-wrote Ladies Night, worked with Peter Jackson and has previously only directed short films — get a note-perfect performance out of Stephens Papps as Misha, a once-acclaimed Russian film director, who arrives in New Zealand in the late Nineties with his wife-cum-muse Nadia (Elena Stejko) in a tiny lifeboat. They are determined to seek a new life and a country more sympathetic to his artistic ideals.
As a film-maker — and we see some of his intended work intercut with the main story — Misha is pretentious, intellectual, singular in his vision and supported by the loving and long-suffering Nadia.
It gives nothing away to say Misha’s dreams are quickly eroded and that Nadia finally cracks at the thought of having to support his self-belief yet again.
The story is less in the narrative than in the way it is told, through those small but accumulating blows which can be debilitating, and the conflict between an intellectual inner world and the rather more unforgiving or indifferent reality in which the couple find themselves.
There are numerous scenes where everything is said in an expression or sideways glance, and Papps masters Misha’s stoic and stubborn persona as a man of few words but grand visions.
That redemption of a kind takes place in the context of loving, funny, generous but also slightly troubled Pacific family does seem a little bit of local cliche, but Stephanie Tauevihi as Roseanna (especially in her interaction with her “children”) brings a ring of understated truth and naturalism to the character.
Misha is a dreamer — and an unsympathetic and irritating one at that — but as his frailties are revealed, to himself and the viewer, he becomes more a figure to be supported and helped than ostracised or condemned by indifference.
Russian Snark — on DVD with no extras — was nominated for official inclusion in a number of international film festivals in 2010 and picked up best international film at the Garden State Film Festival.
The ending may suggest some new awakening and insight, but the getting there — like opening a series of Russian dolls — is worth the journey for the characters and viewer alike. – Graham Reid
NZ feature film Russian Snark has won the top prize at the 38th International Festival of Independent Film in Brussels.
The award is doubly thrilling for writer/director Stephen Sinclair and producer Liz DiFiore because the film was only invited to screen in competition at the festival two weeks ago. The late inclusion was thanks to a glowing recommendation from Bernard Bories, director of the St Tropez Film Festival, where Russian Snark screened in mid-October.
Two other NZ features – Matariki and Predicament – screened in competition at the Belgium fest, with a third – My Wedding and Other Secrets – screening outside the competition.
Matariki won two awards – Best Director for Michael Bennett and Best Actor for Iaheto Ah Hi.
Also playing at the festival were five NZ shorts: Blue, Ebony Society, Hauraki, Munted, and Preferably Blue.
The prizes for the Kiwi filmmakers were collected on their behalf by UK-based NZ actress Celeste Wong, who appears in My Wedding and Other Secrets and was an official guest of the festival.
Russian Snark, which enjoyed a critically acclaimed NZ cinema release earlier this year, has just been released on DVD.
|Brussels: sprouts Kiwi winnersScreen Hub
Wednesday 9 November, 2011
|Brussels hosts a selection of film festivals, many with confusingly similar acronyms, but FIFI is easy to remember, and the Festival Internationale du Film Independent de Bruxelles offered a NZ focus this time around.The festival screens features in international and domestic competitions and an international short film competition.Three Kiwi features were selected in the international feature competition with two coming away with cash prizes, awarded in the currently volatile Euro. Michael Bennett`s Matariki and Jason Stutter`s Predicament flew the flag, with , Stephen Sinclair`s Russian Snark a late addition to the competition programme.Roseanne Liang`s My Wedding and Other Secrets screened out of competition. UK-based actress Celeste Wong, who played Melanie in the film, attended as a guest of the fest.
Russian Snark took away the Best Film gong.
Matariki won two prizes. Michael Bennett took Best Director while Best Actor went to Iaheto Ah Hi, from whose one-man show Tautai the film was developed.
In the shorts department, five Kiwi films screened: Stephen Kang`s Blue, Tammy Davis` Ebony Society, Kirsten Green`s Hauraki, Welby Ings` Muntedand Alan Dickson`s Preferably Blue. All bar one are currently screening here as part of Show Me Shorts (Ing`s being odd man out).
NZ Video have reviewed Russian Snark – check it out here! http://www.nzvideos.org/russianreview.html
Sinclair developed a Russian filmmaker, Misha, who feels he is no longer appreciated in post-soviet Russia and has decided that he can pursue his career in New Zealand.
With meagre funds and a less-than-enthusiastic wife, Nadia, they arrive to find that New Zealanders apparently are no more appreciative of his concept of cinema art than his fellow Russians. Misha refuses to accept this, while Nadia tries to get him to face the realities of basic living.
Nadia finds work as an exotic dancer, which unfortunately leads to stripping which leads to Misha becoming unglued, but he still will not alter his artistic beliefs and efforts which, ironically, also involve nudity but in outdoor natural settings.
As Misha becomes more and more irratic and obsessed, Nadia leaves, moving to an apartment offered by her thugish employer. This is the tipping point for Misha and things turn dark – for both of them.
His sympathetic landlady, Roseanne, saves Misha in more than one way and gradually by spending time with her and her two children, he begins to see life differently. Misha goes from believing – “To trust in unknown is to trust in Life”, to feeling that – “It is better to be good man, than great artist”.
I will admit that this is a much better film than I expected. The writing is very good, the production values are high, the photography and soundtrack are excellent and the acting is definately above average. Nearly half of the film is spoken in Russian, with English subtitles provided, and the only significant complaint I can offer is that the film is too short. I felt that some ideas should have been given greater time for clarification. As for the ending – I’ll leave that for you to figure out.
I hope that this example of what the Sinclair/DiFiore team can produce, on a low budget, means that we have more such gems in our future. Do yourself a favour and see this unique effort.
Russian Snark – the independently produced and financed feature film written and directed by Stephen Sinclair, and produced by Liz DiFiore of Godzone Pictures Ltd. has picked up the top prize at the Brussels International Film Festival.
The festival was an amazing triumph for New Zealand Films with Matariki also picking up two awards for Best Director for Michael Bennett and Best Actor for Iaheto Ah Hi.
This has been a great opportunity to raise NZ’s profile in the Belgium capital.
Russian Snark’s award follows on from the October screening at the St Tropez Film Festival, and selection for the 2012 Cannes Cinephiles Film Festival in May 2012.
If you missed the NZ theatrical release, it is out on DVD in NZ only and available at www.russiansnark.com
“The New Zealand Ambassador will officially open the International Film Festival on Tuesday 1 November and this will be followed by a special screening of the New Zealand film Predicament by Jason Sutter (based on Ronald Hugh Morrieson’s novel). The official reception will showcase New Zealand wine and cuisine, with Rebecca Woodmore, the noted New Zealand soprano performing a number of waiata (Maori songs).
Two other New Zealand films will be shown during the Festival. My Wedding and Other Secrets by Roseanne Liang is a comedy which explores the challenges of cross-cultural relationship, with a specific focus on the experience of Chinese-New Zealanders. The third film, Matariki by Michael Bennett, is a fascinating portrayal of a community in the South Pacific and examines the importance of traditional Maori values. The fourth film, Russian Snark by Stephen Sinclair is the story of a Russian film maker Misha who leaves his country on board a small ship to go to New Zealand where he experiences the same difficulties to defend his ideas.”
Ocotber 6th, we were hosted by Island Screens and the lovely Angela Wright in Great Barrier Island. We were flown over in a tiny place – 10 seater Islander, and I had the luck of sitting next to the pilot on this little adventure! It was a beautiful day and our flight was superb! What an incredible view of the Hauraki Gulf!
Touching down in Okiwi, there was no one to meet us but our poster was on the wall and the car had the keys in it ready to go! We found a map and headed to the picturesque town of Typhena where we were staying. On arrival we found that we were next door to there Currach Irish Pub and staying at the lovely Pohutukawa Lodge.
That night we had a great screening at the Tryphena Social Club with an excellent turnout for the Q & A and a slap up meal to boot! Real Barrier Hospitality!