The 21st Riga International Film Festival "Arsenals" took place from the 10th to the 18th September 2011. Formerly a bi-annual festival, Arsenals celebrated its 25th anniversary this year. The festival's $10,000 Grand Prix is awarded in an unusual way: a lottery where each of the directors in competition is given a drink and the lucky winner is the one who finds a gold button at the bottom of the cup.
Not all of the festival's awards come by chance, however: three independent juries were invited to judge the film's competition this year, one of which was FIPRESCI's own. As there were two main competition categories in the festival, the six-member FIPRESCI jury divided: the International Film Competition was judged by jury president Margarita Chapatte with Zane Balcus and Dragan Jurak, while the Baltic Film Competition was judged by Victoria Smirnova (Mayzel), Mihai Fulger and Alison Frank.
The International Film Competition included 13 films, some titles already familiar from other festivals, such as Asghar Farhadi's A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin, 2011) and Darwin (2011), a documentary by Nick Brandestini. In the Baltic Film competition, many of the 27 films were of a length just above or below the one-hour mark: there were only six fiction films of typical feature length in the category.
In addition to film screenings, the festival hosted a few talks and special events. The proudest was a celebration of Riga's own renowned documentarist Herz Frank, who turned 85 this year: Frank was in attendance at the opening of an exhibition on his life and work at the Riga Film Museum, where he signed copies of his book, Turn Back on the Threshold (Uz sliekšna atskaties, Kino Raksti Library). At the opening ceremony of the festival's Baltic Film Competition, Frank was presented with a special award, followed by a screening of 235 000 000 (1967), a documentary on life in the U.S.S.R written by Frank and directed by Uldis Brauns, who was also in attendance.
FIPRESCI jury member Victoria Smirnova (Mayzel) took part in a panel discussion alongside eight other international academics, philosophers and industry professionals, on the topic of the future of cinema. Arsenals' other main special event looked to cinema's past: Stefan Drössler, director of the Munich Film Museum, gave a lecture on the history of 3D cinema, illustrated with rare clips including Méliès, post-war Volkswagen ads, and 1970s footage of Russian circus performers. (Alison Frank)
Riga International Film Forum Arsenals: www.latfilma.lv/ars