The Anglo-Russian Sochi International Film Festival Awards (SIFFA) organisers who are in London this week for a series of cinema events, have apologised to British star of stage and screen Dame Judi Dench after UK media reports she pulled out of a guest appearance at their London Gala night this Friday due to the nerve gas attacks in Salisbury.
The Oscar winning actress, who portrayed British spymistress ‘M’ in seven James Bond movies, was reported to be “upset” when she learnt of the stories over the weekend, and is in fact on location filming so could not have collected her Best Actress statuette at the Awards ceremony this Friday (23 March) at London’s Soho hotel, the organisers have explained.
As planned British movie director Stephen Frears, who has often cast Dame Judi in his works, will accept a SIFFA Special Award, partly for Ms Dench’s much-praised role as Queen Victoria in his period comedy-drama and Box Office hit,Victoria & Abdul.
“We invited Dame Judi, because our Judging Jury had awarded her Best Actress at our last SIFFA festival in December 2017, for her role in Victoria & Abdul,” said SIFFA President Luba Balagova, the founder and creator of the Anglo-Russian cinema event.
“Dame Judi was scheduled to be filming so naturally she had to decline but she never pulled out of any previous commitment to us, and she wishes us well, and we are sorry on our part if these media reports caused her any embarrassment or difficulties.
“Perhaps the terrible events in Salisbury, and the tensions that now prevail, may have led people to make a connection between us, Dame Judi and this awful matter in Salisbury. We are happy to make it clear that Dame Judi never pulled out of our Gala night, which we are going ahead with, with her blessings,” Ms Balagova said.
SIFFA, which is in its third year, is held in the Black Sea Russian resort of Sochi every December. Then the show comes to London to stage a celebration after the main event in Sochi. This year’s UK events start tomorrow and run to Friday, 21-23 March in London and Windsor, Berkshire.
Notes to Editors: For any further info, interview requests, photos, etc, see or contact: John Hellings, SIFFA Media Director on 07913 819784 or

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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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