It gives me great pleasure to welcome all the participants and guests of the On the Edge Film Festival ’2017, a project unprecedented for our country. Over the years, the festival has not only become a place where filmmakers from Russia and abroad can meet and share their work, but also an important outlet for the proactive islanders’ creativity that provides excellent educational opportunities.
A unique atmosphere has been created here, allowing artists and their audiences to communicate with each other freely, to address the most vital concerns, and to seek solutions. I am certain that this year’s edition will impress the locals and visitors alike, and yield a lot of valuable insights.
The festival program boasts over 70 films from all over the globe, as well as music and theatrical shows. The island’s youngsters are in for an especially exciting ride: more than mere spectators, this year they will be able to make, under their mentors’ supervision, their own films, both animated and live action.
Particular emphasis will be placed on the Sakhalin Oblast itself, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary as a territorial unit. As they narrate the history of the region through its natives’ journeys, the workshop participants will create an unusual guide to the central city of Sakhalin. It is of no small importance that these projects, as well as many others, both cultural and social, will live on beyond the festival. We will always support wholeheartedly all initiatives aimed at developing Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands, and preserving the history and authenticity of our distinctive region where European and Asian cultural traditions intersect.
I wish you the best of luck, and hope you enjoy the many productive conversations you will have at the Sakhalin Film Festival.
Governor of the Sakhalin Oblast
Let me open with a paradox: the festival is ready to go; the guests have been invited; the films have arrived from all over the world; and yet, we still don’t know what On the Edge ’2017 will look like. A year later, our team is back at the festival, and over this year Sakhalin has changed dramatically and so has cinema, and so have we.
«You could not step twice into the same river» must be the wisest thought in the history of humankind. Seemingly crystal clear at first blush, the saying seems to posit that all things are permanently in flux, and when we return somewhere the place is never the same. However, a more radical interpretation is possible, too: you can’t go home again. «Actually, Heraclites’ principle asserts that at any given moment we are in the river already,» wrote Merab Mamardashvili. We can’t step into the river twice or even once, because we are, ourselves, part of a mercurial flow, which we cannot be separate from to «linger on the shore» or «choose the right moment.» Difficult though it is, the situation is also a fertile one, because the invisible drift, time and again, carries our plans and ideas to some previously unfathomable destination.
So, what’s going to be different about this year’s On the Edge? We are sticking to the same through lines: East vs. West; attention to the neighboring countries; the interplay between center and periphery; and orientation toward the kind of accessible filmmaking that requires no special expertise. The through lines might be the same, but the shapes they form have been altered, and it seems that our island is in dire need of a remapping. While in the past Russian selections amounted to, roughly, one half of the program, finding their reflections, as it were, in the mirror of Asian cinema, the current perspective is much more global. There is but one fully Russian title in competition (but what a title it is!). Alongside various offerings from Japan, South Korea, and India, this year’s slate covers Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, France, Argentina, and Georgia as well. The cinema of Southeast Asia is still markedly present, yet the theme of one’s birthplace «small Motherland» in Russian as the place we always leave and inevitably come back to, has now moved to the forefront. As it turns out, this theme is universal for all countries and continents.
Our program of festival hits formerly known as «The Main Things» (Samoe Glavnoe) is now called «How to Watch Movies.» Along with the name, the presentation and angle have changed as well. The buzziest screenings will now be followed by lectures, discussions, and panels. The sidebar no longer claims to pick the cream of the crop previously screened at other festivals; evident masterpieces such as «Paterson» and «The Other Side of Hope» will be interspersed with genre filmmaking and that perennial audience favorite, acting tours de force. Learning how to watch movies means not only mastering the subtleties but also keeping an open mind.
Another novelty is the «Growing Pains» program (Trudnosti Vzrosleniya), in which the world’s greatest filmmakers tackle the issues of that most crucial and vulnerable time in man’s life coming of age. We hope this subject will be at the root of another large-scale project of ours, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Last but not least, I’d like to point out that the «Sakhalin Cinema» program has never been as vast, diverse, or intriguing. Following the local premiere, Sakhalin native Dmitry Moiseev will take his «In the Embrace of the Sea» straight to the international arena. We hope some credit for his success is at least partially ours.