Russian Film Festival Toronto

Three films to watch at the 2011 Toronto Russian Film Festival

The Toronto Russian Film Festival is but a baby when compared to some of Toronto's other national film festivals. Inaugurated just last year, TRFF has set the program for its second edition, with events kicking off Wednesday, May 11. Russian cinema has some pretty huge names under its belt (Andrei Tarkovsky, Aleksandr Sokurov), but for the most part it's a country with an inversely proportioned presence in World cinema compared to its geographic expanse. With a handful of documentaries, features, and medium-length films, TRFF offers Toronto a five-day glimpse of their cinema that ought to be a refreshing peak at what some of the less historic filmmakers are currently churning out. Here are three from their schedule that will help give a sense of what they're up to.

THE HOUSE OF SUN (7pm on May 13 at Isabel Bader Theatre)
The 'Sun' of the titles refers to the leader of a legion of Russian hippies who save our protagonist, Sasha, from her overbearing family of Soviet diplomats, as well as her fiancĂŠe. The House of Sun explores the hippie movements from a Russian perspective - think Across the Universe, minus the Beatles, plus a double shot of vodka. A nostalgic trip through 1970s Russia subcultures, this has enough flower power to satiate withdrawals after Sunday's Freedom Festival March.

THE UGLY DUCKLING (2pm on May 14 at Al Green Theatre)
Six years in the making, this stop-motion animated feature by Garri Bardin looks like it could hold its weight next to a Nick Parks entertainment (Wallace & Gromit). Not that one would need to go all the way to the UK to find a point of comparison, as Russia has its own place in stop-motion lore dating back to the 1960s with Cheburashka. Ugly Duckling takes Hans Christian Anderson's classic story and gives it a humourous and appropriately Russian spin (yes, that is Tschaikovsky listed on the soundtrack). A great family film, it promises both chuckles and sniffles.

MOSCOW, I LOVE YOU! (6:30pm on May 15 at Innis Town Hall)
Want a prix fixe sampler of the who's who of Russian cinema? If you only have time for one film at the festival, but still want to get an idea of the genres and styles the country has in store, this is perhaps the best bet. For those familiar with the recent national omnibus projects such as Paris, Je T'aime and New York, I Love You, the concept behind this film will make immediate sense. 18 shorts, 18 prominent filmmakers, all set in Moscow. Including films by Andrey Konchalovskiy, Artyom Mikhalkov, and Georgi Natanson, the project focuses on the human relationships and interactions that accumulate to characterize a city in a personable context. True to its name, you'll may well fall in love with the city, even if you've never been there.

For a complete festival schedule and venue details, visit www.torontorussianfilmfestival.ca. Tickets are available online ($15 for adults, $10 for students and seniors), or by phone, depending on the venue. Tickets can also be bought at the venue box offices.


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