So we decided to experiment by keeping the fiction and documentary parts of the competition in place and choose teenagers as our key audience. In doing so we proceeded from two assumptions: one is that the best fiction films for children and teenagers are those telling a compelling story and featuring adventures; and two – that there is no such thing auteur documentary cinema for children, as the audiences of such films (unless they bring up particularly sensitive issues) are always wider. We had a feeling that in doing so we are setting ourselves for the necessity to combine the uncombinable and for the attempts to create an awkward hybrid creature. How amazed we were to discover that these diverse films, once included into the short list of the competition selection, suddenly started manifesting certain parallels – in meanings, themes or visual component, although with a varying degree of dimensions to them. The 10-year old female protagonist of the fiction film Romy's Salon is ready to walk an extra mile to make her Grandma happy, while in Valeriya Gai Germanika's Dad we observe a tender relationship between the director's daughter Oktaviya and her grandfather. In both films, children would sometimes swap roles with adults thus revealing a totally mature attitude to life and assuming responsibility.
This is echoed by the heroine of the fiction film I Never Cry, who has to travel to another country to retrieve the body of her deceased father. In one of the key episodes of Call Me Blackbird the pop-up windows and messenger signals turn into a nightmare for the teenagers' parents: what are those online exchanges? Are they fraught with a disaster? The documentary movie Caught in the Net is an acute and radical statement of the problem of online safety (as part of the competition we are screening its special educational version for the 12+ viewers, while the out-of-competition program features the full version of one of the most high-profile recent films). The theme of life in the digital space – albeit in a different dimension – is followed up on in the documentary Jawline, whose protagonist dreams of a career as a social media celebrity. Pursuing one's dreams, crossing the boundaries of convention, searching for and accepting oneself – all these things are also depicted In Stars by the Pound – this time in a totally different language though.
The gravity of the themes in the competition program does not cancel out fantasy elements: the fiction film H Is for Happiness narrates about a girl who sees the world differently, while in the documentary Rediscovery, Nature talks to the children in a human voice. The most incredible story – the one about the relations between a wild animal and a human – happens in reality and is the subject of the documentary film Maya.
So, the jury and the viewers alike will be invited to judge 10 films that seem to comfortably coexist within one program. Approximations, rhymes and parallels unite all these films, as different as they are. We will be happy if you can discover those for yourself.
Natalia Pylaeva and Masha Tereschenko, Competition Program Curators