Read SIFFA President Luba Balagova's Full Speech at London Briefing Press Conference - 1-11-18

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for watching our video presentation, based on our 2017 Festival and our work throughout this year so far to sustain our momentum and stage our third cinematic celebration, SIFFA 2018.

I was told recently that one British Prime Minister, when asked by the media what was his biggest challenge preventing him achieving his goals, smiled at the journalist and said: “Events, my dear boy, Events.” That was the late Harold Macmillan in the 1960s, long before our era of 24-hour rolling news.

I understand exactly what Prime Minister Macmillan meant. This year so far has been a very very busy one in terms of events for both Russia and Britain, has it not!

However, I am delighted to re-affirm that my creation – SIFFA – has weathered the contemporary storms. We hit the UK headlines in March because one of our SIFFA’17 Award winners, the great Dame Judi Dench, was on location and could not attend our Prize-giving Ceremony in London which perhaps some of you here tonight, were at. “James Bond Spy Boss pulls out of Russian film awards”, screamed some of the headlines.

Oh Well….(sigh out loud and hold out your arms to shrug, as if to say “what can I do”), apparently in Britain, or so my Media Director John Hellings assured me, they say all publicity is good publicity. Judging by your presence here tonight, that saying could well be true.

I am here to tell you tonight that SIFFA has kept faith with its established artistic principles, its aims and dreams, which film director maestro Roland Joffe summed up so well in the video: “cinema is for entertainment, opening minds, changing attitudes, bringing people together who would never have otherwise met each other, let alone worked together,” that is Roland Joffe’s take on SIFFA earlier this year. Thank you, Roland.

So here we are at this evening’s SIFFA’18 London Briefing and I am so thankful you have all come. Tonight is most probably our last physical SIFFA promotion event in the UK before the actual Sochi International Film Festival and Awards of 2018, which starts in exactly 40 days on 11thDecember.

Wehave marketed tonight’s event  as SIFFA'18's "London Briefing" Press Conference so I welcome all representatives of the media tonight. I hope you will publicise our message and this year’s SIFFA’18 Festival.

I don’t have too much time to talk like this to you, because I want also to leave some space for certain members of our SIFFA’18 Jury, who have kindly joined us tonight and  so I will now focus on some FACTS about SIFFA 2018.

First and foremost, I would like to emphasize that we’re approaching our Third Year with confidence because we have already received through our website more than 800 submitted film works. There remain 10 more days till Deadline for submissions – 10thNovember. All technical details for submissions are on our Website –

The structure of the Festival is going to be four-fold – One - Competition – qualifying entries will be sifted and selected for screening, and be judged in one of 3 categories – Features, Documentaries and Short Films. Two – the non-Competition programme; Three – Special Screenings  - in honour of special individuals, and Four – our new programme, Focus on our Region, in which we aim to screen 5 - 6 works from the magnificent northern Caucasus of which Sochi is a crucial part.

The Caucasus region can truly lay claim to being one of the most ancient and enduring cradles of human civilization. Only last week scientists revealed they have found the oldest in-tact shipwreck in the world – 2,400 years old, perfectly preserved,  and laying one mile down on the seabed off Bulgaria’s coast, in the oxygen-less depths of The Black Sea.

They believe it is an ancient Greek vessel, identical to Odysseus’ ship depicted on a priceless ancient Greek vase on display in the British Museum today. Homer, Odysseus, Ancient Greece, Bulgaria, the Black Sea and the British Museum. And from 400 years Before Jesus Christ until 2018, its secret was kept from us.

It does make me wonder what more of Humanity’s lost past is sealed in the tomb of The Black Sea, waiting to be re-discovered.

The Black Sea and her Caucasian lands have been the center of extraordinary civilizations for millennia. With them have come great art – music, poetry, painting, writing. Our modern medium, cinema, should also grow in the Caucasus and SIFFA hopes to encourage that growth.

The artistic spirit of the modern Caucasian peoples who live around its magnificent mountains and the Black Sea today, deserve to express  themselves in film, and we at SIFFA want to help to nurture a cinematic Renaissance in the Caucasus Region through our Festival. More specific details about the regional Caucasus films on show will be available on our Website very soon. You will find some details in your Press Packs.

We currently have 10 confirmed selected feature films, and several more on a waiting list pending the end of the submissions dead-line on 10th November. I would like to tell you about some of them briefly tonight. All these details will be available on our Website very soon. 

1) First of all, I would like to note the participation of the film Clay Pit (2018) directed by the late Vera Glagoleva, who supported the festival by becoming its first Jury Chairman in 2016. Vera Glagoleva is a holder of the most prestigious Artistic Award in Russia – Peoples’ Artist. In Britain Vera is most known for her film Two Women (2014), the lead was performed by Ralph Fiennes.

2) Boogie Man, directed by Andy Morahanwhich just recently won Best Feature Film Award at the Cardiff International Film Festival in Wales. This is a Première Screening in Russia.

3) The film In Silence (2018) by the giant of Kazakhstani cinema, director Ardak Amirkulov. This is a World Première Screening.

4) Strangers of Patience by the Russian multi-award winning writer/ director/ producer, Vladimir Alenikov.

SIFFA supports young directors and tries to include début or second full-length films in our competition programmes. 

5) One of the brightest débuts of this year is the family drama Deep Rivers by the Kabardian director Vladimir Bitokov.

6) Exiting Life in the genre of mockumentary is the début full-length feature film by  well-known Russian actress turned director, Anna Yanovskaya

7) Another début is presented by a native of Serbia, during the Yugoslav era, now living in London. Borders, Raindrops directed by Vlastimir Sudaris a five countries co-production including UK.

8) Katherine of Sinai (2018) by British film director Michael Redwood, continues the tradition of screen versions of Biblical epics, founded by Franco Zeffirelli in his TV-series Jesus of Nazareth. It also rejuvenates the ‘sword-and-scandal’ peplum genre of Italian-made historical or Biblical epics (costume dramas). Peter O’Toole, who died in 2013, plays the role of Roman orator Gallus in this film, which originally saw very limited release as ‘Decline of an Empire – Katherine of Alexandria’ in 2015. A true ensemble of British character actors feature in the cast.

9) Horizon by Georgian film director Tinatin Kajrishvili is a two-country co-production. This film is full of visual grace and has a deep understanding of love. It will be a Russian Première. Its World Première was in the Panorama Section of the 2018 Berlinale.

10) Kardeşler/Brothers (2018) directed by Ömür Atay (Turkey).

In the Press Pack which each of you should have, you will find the details of our confirmed Jurors. Some of them are even here with us tonight.

Jury for feature films

Mohy Kandour – Co-chairman, UK

Helena Tsiplakova Co-chairman, Russia

Oksana Stashenko Russia

Elizabeth Blake-Thomas, USA

Katerina Mikhaylova Russia


Short films, Documentary

Yesim Guzelpinar, Co-chairman for shorts, UK-Turkey,

Paul G Andrews, UK

Temina Tuaeva, Co-chairman, Russia

Agnessa Zeltinya, Lithuania

Victor Terentev, Sochi, Russia

We hope ultimately to show 12 feature films during the Festival; and a minimum of 7 documentaries; and a minimum of 7 shorts in those competition categories. Also, we will show about 7 special screenings. We have 3 master classes, 2 lectures, and a special evening with a people’s actress. Films will be screened at 5 cinema venues in Sochi over the 6 days. We will be producing a full Festival Guide Book which will also be published on our website.

In the atmosphere of magical Black Sea evenings, as promised by the Mayor of Sochi, at the city’s most prestigious venues such as the Radisson Blue Spa, we will launch the Festival on 11thDecember with a red-carpet Opening Night celebration, and bring the Festival to a glittering climax on 16thDecember with our full-dress Gala ‘Irida’ Awards Ceremony and After-Party.

We aren’t going to allow Festival-goers that much sleep during the week either. There will be a special “White Night and Ascot Ladies’ Hats”  Reception, to symbolize Russia’s white winter nights in December and the quintessentially British fashion and horse-racing Ladies’ Day at Royal Ascot, known around the world. The movies thrive on glamour after all, don’t they?

All three celebrations will be truly glamorous extravaganza evenings with singers and professional dancers and entertainments (different for all three) following by dinners or buffet with special entry Invitations only.

On other nights, the schedule be filled with parties, drinks and lots of fun.  

I hope I have persuaded you all to book your flights and places at SIFFA’18 in your busy schedules. Of course, we have various travel packages for you to help you come to Sochi. I am delighted that my colleague SIFFA Vice-President Charles Stewart is here tonight to answer any questions you may have about that. Charles, please stand and make yourself known?

I hope I have given you a taste of the excitement and energy on show at SIFFA’18. I hope I have converted you all into being good friends of SIFFA, because we need you. I thank you all once again for coming tonight. And I hope you enjoy our hospitality which will soon follow this formal part of our Briefing.

I close with an old Circassian proverb, the province where I was born, nearby to Sochi: “If you start on your way, you will get to your destination; the first step is always the hardest.” We have taken the first step with you here tonight. Thank you all so much.

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During a tough chapter in UK-Russian relations I was pleased to have been able to attend Luba's special evening... Luba , you are a brave and valiant woman to spearhead such a high-profile project in a hostile environment. But those of us who spent the 23rd with you had the privilege of breathing the same air as the legendary Stephen Frears, the American star Nick Nolte and the superb string ensemble (KANDOUR QUARTET).

Carol Gould,
Political Commentator at British Broadcasting Corporation

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Luba, this is a crucial time for artists to recover their voice, you are helping to restore the connection between all of us, film makers from all over the world. I applaud the philosophy that underpins what you are doing.

Roland Joffé,
the Oscar, BAFTA and Cannes film festival
winning film director of “The Killing Fields” and “The Mission”

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Congratulations on making history, Luba. Thanks to Anatoly Pakhomov, of course! Sochi is the ideal choice for the concept of creating an international film festival designed to restore the face of art to the world through cinema. (…) Russia has always presented to the world the best examples of literature, philosophy, cinema and, in general, culture! And now the new Sochi International Film Awards wrote a new chapter in history with the same concept.

Karl Bardosh,
famous professor of New York university,
director, producer, writer

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A structured and strict concept of a powerful film festival has been formed, and you managed to prove its feasibility. Congratulations on what you have achieved, Luba. You've got proof of concept under your belt now! I thank Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov for supporting the new important film festival.

Elliot Grove,
founder of the Raindance Film Festival
and British Independent Film Awards

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A smashing success! Thank you for bringing Moscow and Sochi delegations, for the unexpected Sochi-wood glamour, the feedback from staff members and external guests was unreservedly positive.

Larry Sherwin,
Deputy Director of Communications of
EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development)

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Admirable Lubov Balagova-Kandour.
President and Producer of the “IRIDA” First Sochi International Film Awards. Majestic woman and lady of the world. Her motto - nothing is impossible. A woman of words and deeds. Beautiful person and magnificent woman.

Nina Ruchkina
Fashion House owner, dress designer

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