Lyubov Balagova: Agreement between the Festivals is a Big Step
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Lyubov Balagova: Agreement between the Festivals is a Big Step

26 April 2019

On April 25, 2019, a cooperation agreement was signed between the Kazan International Muslim Film Festival and Sochi International Film Festival (SIFFA). The president of SIFFA, a writer, screenwriter and producer Lyubov Balagova shared her impressions on the development of the Russian-British SIFFA and shared her plans on the partnership with the Kazan Film Festival: 

- For me, this is more than just an agreement. It is the reflection of the East with deep spiritual aspect. I learned a lot from your spirituality and history. I hope that the Sochi Film Festival will incorporate these values ​​as well. We are a part of the Muslim world and the Muslim world is a part of the European world. Therefore, the Sochi International Film Festival in this partnership will promote to the European audience the values ​​residing in the core of the Kazan Muslim Film Festival. 

Today, Kazan Film Festival has found a home in the UK, whereas SIFFA has found its own in Tatarstan. Our festival has a huge family: for instance, every year, we attend Cannes Festival. Now, Kazan has become our full partner and a member of our family, which will also present the ideas and the values of the International Muslim Film Festival. 

- SIFFA festival as the Russian-British Open Sochi International Film Festival accepts entries from all over the world. Could you tell us more about the concept of SIFFA? 

- Unfortunately, we live in a world, where politics affects the content of film festivals, even of the large ones. I wanted to establish a film festival that would unify different cultures in fact, not only in words. It is usual to see the notion of cultural exchange on the websites of the majority of film festivals. However, I think that this notion could be expanded into the combination of cultures. This idea is the core of the SIFFA concept. 

I would like that SIFFA would be more known for promoting cultures and informative films and projects that are not necessarily accepted for Oscar or BAFTA. However, as our award, Irida statuette, has been already designated as Sochi’s Oscar, I would like to maintain this status.  

- The film of Vladimir Bitokov, Deep Rivers, which currently competes in the key programme of the 15th Kazan Muslim Film Festival, has already received the Best Debut award at SIFFA. 

- It was very important for me that the Deep Rivers were screened in Sochi, as the festival has an international jury, including BAFTA members and the representatives of the American Film Academy. It was vital for me to hear their opinions. It was necessary to provide them an opportunity to watch this film and, when they watched it, they unanimously gave the film this award. Then, its director had the opportunity to present the film at the gala evening with the participation of the British and Russian film industry members. 

The films that we are bringing to London are perceived as a part of British culture. It is not about an exchange; it is a single space. 

- Yesterday, the Kazan Muslim Film Festival hosted its first international pitching session. Do you have a particular interest in the projects presented during this competition? 

- Yes, I voted for the Tatarstan-Turkish project ‘Safa and Sazhida’ based on the novel ‘Muhajirs’. This is a simple love story on the background of historical events, but I am happy that young directors started to focus on the history of their peoples. I would like to see this historical film and invite it to our festival. 

And I would also like to have an opportunity to make a co-production with Tatarstan, with local filmmakers. Our festival has a partner company, Sindika Production, which is represented in many countries. I brought to Kazan not only my own festival, but also a film project, which we will shoot soon in Jordan with the participation of local film makers. The film will be directed by Mohi Kandur, one of the roles will be performed by Jeremy Irons, a British actor. 

The cooperation agreement between our festivals is a big step forward. The next step I hope, would be the films created in cooperation with Tatarstan especially with the participation of emerging directors.