Ladies and Gentlemen, how magnificent to see you all here tonight. I cannot tell you how happy I feel looking at you all. Thank you so much for coming.

This evening is hugely important for our Sochi International Film Festival and Awards. I imagined and wanted SIFFA to be an Anglo-Russian creation. This was my starting point and my philosophy.

So having a celebration and showpiece like this, here in London, to complement our centre-peice event in Sochi, is vital for us.

There’s another reason too why this week’s activities and tonight’s Gala here, is significant. This Gala in London marks the 4th Birthday of my baby – Happy Fourth Birthday, SIFFA, come on everybody, show your appreciation, please give SIFFA a round of applause.

And furthermore, our Gala tonight marks the first visit of SIFFA to this very special part of London, The City, the world’s foremost financial centre. It was in The City in 1555 that merchants started the very first trading connection between Britain and Russia, the Muscovy Company.

Such is the importance and opportunities of co-operation between us, even six hundred years ago.

In the past few decades, The City of London has also seen a concentration of legal excellence develop, as part of this global commerce. Our hosts tonight, the esteemed law firm of Pinsent Masons, is an outstanding member of that élite of law firms.

And they have a very definite commitment to Russia, as you can see tonight.

So SIFFA is honoured to be accepted into the Pinsent Masons fold. We look forward to a future working together.

This year will see SIFFA taking on new challenges before our 4th Sochi Festival in November. We will work constantly to make our November event in Sochi the best SIFFA yet.

I can reveal that we will present ourselves at the Tatarstan International Muslim Film Festival in Kazan, a strongly independent republic in Russia. And we will show within the Film UK Pavilion at the Cannes festival.

SIFFA wants to give special encouragement to the film industry in our home region of the Caucasus. It is already beginning to flower, and Director Vladimir Bitokov, who you will meet soon tonight, is a shining example of this.

I must pay tribute here to our film maestro, Alexander Sokurov, whose films have scooped Awards at Cannes and Venice. Maestro Sokurov established a film school in Nalchik, near Sochi, and already it has become a hot-house of talent, including our Award-winner tonight, Vladimir Bitukov.

So now, Honoured Guests, I must make way for our Award winners to have their moments on our stage.

In Sochi our Award-winners receive our Irida statuette, SIFFA’s Oscar.

It is our privilege to have with us tonight the amazingly talented sculptress who created our Irida statuette, Miss Irina Lagoshina. Irina has done an exceptional job. But.....did she use a model, people have often asked me?

Well, I can say this, but first I ask my husband and family here tonight they may want to close their ears – there have been rumours that the SIFFA Irida statuette is modelled on the shape of a certain lady who once went bathing in the muddy soil of The Dead Sea in her swimsuit, captured in a few photographs. Have I been to The Dead Sea? Is it me in those photos? don’t think I would say, do you?

SIFFA lives and breathes tonight thanks to all of you present here at our Gala – our mission to be the bridge between British and Russian cinematic arts, promoting and enhancing our artistic endeavours, continues. And with your support and backing, it will succeed.

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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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