toronto russian film festival

5 films to watch at the Toronto Russian Film Festival

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming...when the third Toronto Russian Film Festival opens this week in Toronto. Now in its third year, the five-day festival, which celebrates an array of Russian cinema, ranging from melodrama to documentaries to animation (and, yes, a nod to Mikhail Baryshnikov) features a stronger line-up than ever.

Here are five films to check out at the fest.

FRIDAY JUNE 8 / BORIS GODUNOV / TOWN HALL (INNIS COLLEGE) / 7PM
Directed by esteemed Russian film director Vladimir Mirzoev, Boris Godunov's theme of crime and punishment is as synonymous with Russia as vodka and ballet. Based on the works of one of Russia's most famous poets, Alexander Pushkin, the 2011 film is a complex drama about the existential choices--including the good and evil present in all of us--which carries on a long tradition in Russian literature and cinema.

SATURDAY JUNE 9 / ZHYLA-BILA ODNA BABA (Once Upon a Time There Lived a Woman) / TOWN HALL (INNIS COLLEGE) / 4:30PM
The epic drama went on to receive many "NIKA" awards (a.k.a. The Russian Academy Awards) in 2011, including Best Feature Film. The Andrei Smirnov-directed piece is an intimate life-long portrait of an illiterate Russian peasant woman, who lived between 1909 and 1921 and witnessed the major upheaval wrought by historical events like the First World War. Special guest, actress Darya Ekamasova (who won the Best Actress award), will be on hand for the screening.

SATURDAY JUNE 9 / SIBERIA MONAMOUR / TOWN HALL (INNIS COLLEGE) / 8PM
This 2011 psychological drama about an old man and his 7-year old grandson who live in the forest and avoid interaction with others until the boy's life is suddenly endangered, took home some heavy hardware from film festivals around the world last year, including Best Foreign Film at the 10th Rome Independent Film Festival and Best New Director at the 18th Brooklyn International Film Festival. Its much-lauded director, Slava Ross, will also be in attendance.

SUNDAY JUNE 10 / MOTTLED TWILIGHT / ROM / 2:30PM
In a tribute to Soviet and Russian movie star, singer and entertainer, Lyudmila Gurchenko (1935-2011) whose rapid rise to fame started in 1956 with her debut in The Carnival Night, there will be a screening of the 2009 film, Mottled Twilight, which Gurchenko directed, wrote, and starred in. The film's producer and Gurchenko's husband, Sergey Senin, and her friend, musician and photographer Aslan Ahmadov, will also be present at the screening.

MONDAY JUNE 11 / MY FATHER, BARYSHNIKOV / TOWN HALL (INNIS COLLEGE) / 9PM
What Russian festival would be complete without a Mikhail Baryshnikov shout-out? In this 2011 melodrama, a teenage boy who dreams of performing at the Bolshoi Theatre during the during the Perestroika era, discovers a banned VHS tape of the 1985 Baryshnikov-film, White Nights. As the boy's ballet talents begin to blossom, he tries to convince his classmates that he's the son of the famed ballet dancer.

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The Toronto Russian Film Festival runs from June 7 to June 12, with screenings taking place at Innis College's Town Hall and the ROM. Ticket prices vary, so check out their ticketing page for details.

Still from Siberia Monamour


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