Sochi Film Festival awards Sharkwater Extinction at gala in London, on the eve of its release in the UK



THE GLAMOROUS Sochi International Film Festival and Awards’ (SIFFA) UK Gala Night in the decorous interior of top global law firm Pinsent Masons proved a Box Office hit with the City lawyers and Anglo-Russian movie makers and shakers last night (21/3/2019).

A full house of 150 specially selected guests from the legal and film worlds donned gowns and black tie for the SIFFA’19 UK Gala celebrations, which are held shortly after the main event in the Russian Black Sea coastal resort of Sochi in December each year.

The Awards ceremony featured best-selling Royal biographer and TV star Lady Colin Campbell giving the SIFFA honours to winners, alongside the President of Russia’s Guild of Film Critics, Kirill Razlogov, and sublime Russian sculptress Irina Lagoshina.

Guests saw the UK première of up-and-coming Russian director Vladimir Bitokov’s stunning movie ‘Deep Rivers’ – a disturbing drama set in the Caucasus mountains. Director Bitokov said afterwards: “I am deeply proud my film is firstly shown in London by SIFFA.”

A SIFFA Special Documentary Award was accepted for the extraordinary Canadian underwater-filmed movie, ‘Sharkwater Extinction’, premièred in Toronto last year, and then screened in Sochi, by the film’s UK distributor, Ian Dawson of Sparky Pictures. Writer and Director Rob Stewart died during a dive while making his film, which warns that our massacre of sharks will lead to disaster down the eco-chain for humankind.

‘Sharkwater Extinction’ is released in UK cinemas this week (22/3/2019). “It is a great cinema experience and a stark warning to us – Rob’s parents in Canada are very proud of this SIFFA Award and recognition,” said Mr Dawson at the SIFFA’19 UK Gala.


City law firm Pinsent Masons has already established its ‘RusFor’ Russian-speaking platform to promote knowledge of Russia and other surrounding countries like Kazakhstan amongst lawyers. Now it has told SIFFA they would be welcome to return to the Pinsent Masons Crown Place HQ near Liverpool Street next year.

Ben Wells, a fluent Russian speaker and Pinsent Masons associate, said: “Our ‘RusFor’ members very much appreciated this SIFFA Gala experience and we as a firm welcome SIFFA – and would do so again. There are avenues to explore here. The Gala was a great success for all of us.”

SIFFA Founder and President, Luba Balagova, confirmed the growing tie between her festival organisation, which aims to promote an artistic bridge between Britain and Russia, and her City of London Gala Night legal hosts.

“SIFFA loves the City of London and we are very happy to build up our partnership with Pinsent Masons. Let’s hope we can do lots more together – and ‘Yes’ we will be back,” said Ms Balagova, a published author and poet, who lives in Berkshire.

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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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