The founder and president Luba Balagova's inspiring speech at SIFFA UK 23rd march 2018 @ Soho Hotel


Hello and good evening to you, my wonderful guests – to those of you here tonight  who have participated in our Sochi International Film Festival and Awards before, as entrants, as jurors, as honoured representatives of film and culture, and to those of you who are new to us. I would like to say a special hello to members of the UK and foreign media here tonight whose work in helping us spread awareness of our venture I value tremendously.

As we are in the heart of Soho in this great capital city of London, I shall speak to you in my adopted second language of English. That does not mean however that I won’t speak to you from the bottom of my heart as a Russian Circassian poet, as the founder of my artistic child, SIFFA, with all my emotions. I promise you that I will.

One purpose of our Gala tonight is to pay tribute to the award winners of SIFFA 2017 in Sochi. The jury, led by Roland Joffe, chose who deserved the Irida Awards for their films on show in Sochi last December. They chose wisely and sincerely.

 Of course, I personally also want to say there were no losers in Sochi. All our competition entrants, and there were nearly 50 in all, across features, documentaries and shorts, produced distinguished and remarkable works and deserve full praise. And of course soon we shall see for ourselves one of the three Special Screenings shown in Sochi – the wonderful Betting On Love by Maestro Artyom Mikhalkov, who is here with us tonight so to whom I say a special hello.

I want to go beyond SIFFA itself tonight. These are interesting times for the two great nations we try to bring together through SIFFA – Britain and Russia. I have a philosophy which I call simply ‘Connection’. It is an artistic connection – the connection of ideas, creativity and beauty. This concept rises above nationality. Yet it is fragile. How can we maintain our artistic connection and strengthen it with all these challenges around us today? I believe SIFFA can do that.

Both Britain and Russia have been at the forefront of the art of cinema from its first developments at the end of the 19th Century. We hail the greats – Eisenstein, Chaplin, Tarkovsky, Hitchcock – the technological breakthroughs, the sublime acting, the great stories, and the power to inspire, and breathe life into the minds and imaginations of cinemagoers from Chelsea to Chelyabinsk, from Milton Keynes to Murmansk, from Manchester to Moscow, from Windsor to Nalchik.

And we shall all be that much more enriched in our experience and appreciation of this great art form if we keep our connection bridge between our two great nations open and the traffic of our artistic output flowing across that bridge – in both directions.

That was my dream and purpose in setting up SIFFA and that is my motivation for continuing to work to develop, improve and expand SIFFA in the coming years. Please believe in this project and please give us your continued support.

I hope you enjoy our special screening tonight and our hospitality after that. I hope to talk to as many of you as possible over the course of the evening. I want to say much, much more but I dare not indulge any more of your time and patience. So I hand over to your Presenters for this evening to conduct our London Awards ceremony. Thank you.

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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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