Vitaly Mansky: Artdocfest wouldn’t be possible in Russia

This October the Riga International Film Festival will host the Artdocfest documentary film competition program, which has moved here from Moscow. These are the best Russian-language documentaries made over the past year that are difficult or even impossible to screen in Russia.

Holding a debate about press freedom and humanitarian issues and organizing the festival is now out of the question in Russia. That's why Riga has become the world’s capital of Russian documentaries.

"It's paradoxical that most of the films in the program directly relate to Russia but cannot be showed in this country," said Vitaly Mansky, the festival's president and a director and producer himself.

The reason for this is that screenings in Russia would threaten the careers and even lives of the authors and the heroes of their films. Thus, ironically, the real Russia of today is shown in films often made thousands of miles away from its borders.

The festival, established in 2007, showcases Russian-language documentaries. Recently, it has had to include films produced in other parts of the world too, as the number of quality homegrown productions shrinks rapidly. The festival focuses the evolution of the creative language of the documentary medium.

After Mansky took a pro-Ukranian stance during the recent events in its eastern regions and Crimea, the Russian Culture minister Vladimir Medinsky announced that the state would cut all support to any project involving the director, including Artdocfest.

Despite Russia not particularly caring about it, the importance of Artdocfest cannot be overstated: during the years the festival took place in Russia, its jury featured prominent members of the art world, like the artist Oleg Kulik, and the winner of the Venice film festival and the USA Academy Award nominee Andrei Zvyagintsev.

The program will also feature Mansky's own latest film "Iconoscope" that aims to reveal the magic power of television, inescapable to anyone, apart from, perhaps, those living in the Amazon rainforests.

Most of the authors whose films will be shown at the festival will visit Riga to join audiences in discussing their films, Russian politics, and themes that not only should, but must be raised among the Latvian public as well.

Film screenings will take place October 17-23 at the Small Auditorium of the Splendid Palace theater, every night at 9pm.

Mansky is only one of a growing number of Russian cultural and intellectual figures to seek freedom of expression in Latvia while retaining the ability to address a wide Russian-speaking audience.

Tickets to all screenings will be available, starting October 1; until then the festival is offering a special Festival Pass to all of the festival’s films. The price of the pass is 25 euros; and only before October 1.

The Riga International Film Festival will take place during October 15-25, supported by the State Culture Capital Foundation and Riga Council, in partnership with the Union of Latvian Cinematographers and the Latvian Association of Film Producers.

Film programs are available at the festival website. Latest news and info can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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