Message to Man International Film Festival Reveals Its Jury and Opening Programme

The Message to Man International Film Festival, which will take place in St. Petersburg from October 20 to October 28, 2023, unveils its jury line-up. The Festival is supported by the Ministry of Culture, the Presidential Fund for Cultural Initiatives and the Committee for Culture of Saint Petersburg.

This year, 189 films, including world and national premieres, will be screened at the Festival’s venues: at the Dom Kino film centre, LenDoc film studio, Aurora, Rodina, Angleterre, Lenfilm, Velikan Park cinemas, Dom Radio, the stage and Media Library of the Alexandrinsky Theatre’s New Stage, and the Word Order bookshop.

The Festival’s programme revolves around three competitions: the National and International competitions, and the InSilico Experimental Film Competition.

The Festival offers its traditional out-of-competition programmes. Panorama.doc, curated by Alexei Medvedev and Natalia Pylaeva, showcases highlights of this season’s documentary cinema from acclaimed masters and innovative filmmakers. Superreal Cinema, curated by Andrei Plakhov, brings together the year’s most anticipated feature films. This year’s event also includes special programmes: New Voices by Mikhail Ratgauz and Workshop by Pyotr Shepotinnik. Multiverse is a collection of short and medium-length films, while animation is featured in the We’ll Draw It, We’ll Live It programme. The Festival will showcase films by young Russian directors in the Russian Youth. Present Continuous section, as well as works created by students from the Russian State University of Cinematography and the Saint Petersburg State University of Film and Television.


The International Jury includes: theatre and film actress, Honoured Artist of Russia Elizaveta Boyarskaya; Indian director Chaitanya Tamhane; Chinese director and screenwriter Ji Huang; Iranian producer, director, and actor Shahram Ebrahimi; director and screenwriter from Sweden Isabella Eklöf.

The National Competition jury, which is going to determine the winner of the national non-fiction film competition, includes: producer and writer from Italy Olga Strada; documentary filmmakers from Uzbekistan Umida Akhmedova and Oleg Karpov; non-fiction filmmaker from Israel Lidia Sheinin.

Jury of the In Silico International Short Experimental Film Competition: American director Patrick Bresnan; educator, media, video, experimental photography and installation artist Masha Dantsis; Russian museum designer, expert Nadya Pantyulina; Russian artist, composer, curator, founder of u/n multitude collective Nikita Spiridonov.

Media jury members: Victoria Smirnova-Maisel, film critic, associate professor of the Dramaturgy and Film Studies Department of the St. Petersburg Institute of Film and Television (Film studies workshop), editor-in-chief of the international scientific journal KINEMA; Yulia Shagelman, film critic for Kommersant known for her numerous articles on cinema; Oleg Zintsov, film critic, theatre historian, editor of the culture section at Vedomosti.

Traditionally, films of the Festival will be evaluated by members of the student jury: Maria Malinina, student of St. Petersburg State Institute of Film and Television; Daria Omelchenko, student of the directing workshop of the St. Petersburg School of New Cinema; Ping-Jia Wu, student of VGIK; Alexandra Rudavskaya, student of St. Petersburg State University.


On October 20 at 16:30, Aurora cinema will host the opening film of the 33rd Message to Man International Film Festival. The new motion picture by director Michel Gondry titled “The Book of Solutions” is set for a Russian cinema release on November 16.

  • “Le Livre des solutions” / “The Book of Solutions”. France, 2023, 102 min.

On October 21, Blue Hall Dom Kino’s will screen another Russian premiere from the Panorama.doc programme curated by Alexei Medvedev and Natalia Pylaeva. Michael Douglas”, “The Child Prodigy” is a documentary about the life of the American star and eldest son of the great Kirk Douglas. The film explores how Michael Douglas, a two-time Oscar winner and recipient of six Golden Globes, emerged from the shadow of his legendary father to conquer his own heights.

On October 21 at 17:20, the Grand Hall of the Rodina cinema will screen the film out of the Superreal Cinema programme titled About Dry Grasses” by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan. The director won the Palme d’Or and three other prizes at the Cannes Film Festival.

On October 21, the Dom Kino cinema will screen films from the National Competition, including Evgeny Milykh’s “Artyom and Eva”. On October 23, Rodina will screen To the Ladies Not Present Here”, a film by Masha Chernaya about the specifics of a subculture. The film Un_touched” directed by Elizaveta Verkhovenskaya will tell a story about a guy who has trouble finding love.

On October 22 at 18:30, the White Hall of Dom Kino will host a screening of the documentary Chronicle of Reality” by Pavel Medvedev, followed by a Q&A with the director. This nearly three-hour documentary, showcasing the history of non-fiction cinema in Leningrad/St. Petersburg features rare footage by authors and documentary filmmakers from the legendary LenDoc studio.

On 22 October at 18:00 Lenfilm will host a special screening of Alexey German Jr. and Elena Okopnaya’s The Architect: The Story of Alexei German and His Films”. The film created by the director’s family and colleagues will undoubtedly be a significant event, particularly considering that the premiere will take place at Lenfilm, the studio where Alexei German Sr. worked. The documentary incorporates parts of the master’s film Hard to Be a God, as well as behind-the-scenes footage. The presentation of the film hosted by director’s son, Alexei German Jr., production designer Elena Okopnaya, and producer Alexei Bokov will take place after the screening.

On October 22, Rodina will screen the film Lenechka”. The film directed by Renata Dzhalo revolves around Leonid Desyatnikov, one of Russia’s most frequently performed composers of our time. Prior to the screening, there will be a performance by pianist Alexey Goribol featuring music by Leonid Desyatnikov.

On 22 October at 19:00, a special screening will be held in the Grand Hall of Aurora. The film by Japanese director Neo Sora Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus” depicts the last performance of the legendary composer a few months before his passing.

The premieres of non-fiction projects from streaming platforms will be presented as part of the Industry Day on October 24 at the Media Centre of the Alexandrinsky Theatre’s New Stage. The event will also feature a roundtable discussion on non-fiction film and TV series production in collaboration with Russian online cinemas. Film columnist Susanna Alperina will moderate the roundtable. The event will bring together heads of departments and producers of Russian streaming platforms (Okko, Premier, Kion, Start, Ivi, Studio Video Rental, and the Internet Development Institute). Online registration is required.

The Industry Day programme at Dom Radio will proceed with a series of screenings in the programme titled Russian Young. Continued Present, featuring 11 new short live-action films made by Russia’s very young talents. At the end of the day, a roundtable discussion will be held, bringing together filmmakers, viewers and representatives of the film industry. The discussion will be led by film critic Larisa Malyukova.

On October 25 at 18:40, the Grand Hall of Dom Kino will feature a special screening of the film “Kingdom” directed by Tatyana Rakhmanova, which received prizes for Best Debut and Best Cinematography at the “Mayak” Film Festival of contemporary Russian cinema. After the screening there will be a meeting with the director, which will be moderated by Peter Shepotinnik.

On October 26  at 15:30, the Grand Hall of Dom Kino will feature a screening of episodes 5 and 6 of “The Big Battle”, a project directed by Mikhail Dvorzhetsky and produced by Sergei Bondarchuk. This project provides a unique glimpse behind the scenes of the most secretive sport in the world – MMA, or Mixed Martial Arts. MMA holds significant importance in Russia.

The works of the National Competition participants can be viewed at other Festival venues. On October 25 at 18:30 in the Grand Hall of the Rodina Cinema Centre, as part of the National Competition screenings, will host the world premiere of Alexey Fedorchenko’s film “Mitrofan Aksenov’s Sausage”. This is a bibliographic detective exploration based on the biography of the great but forgotten Russian philosopher, whose works foreshadowed Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Top of Form

Screenings of films in the International Competition will be held at Dom Kino, where the directors of the competing films Adnane Baraka (“Fragments from Heaven”), Yorgos Gousis (“Armwrestler”), Efthymia Zymvragaki (“Light Falls Vertical”) Sergio Guataquira Sarmiento (“Adieu Sauvage”), Vladimir Eisner (“Twilight”), as well as short film authors Roman Belov (“The Tree Without Leaves”), Olesya Rudyka (“Planet D”), and Maria Chukalskaya (“Kids of July”), will be present to meet with the audience in person. Addidtionally, there will be Q&A sessions on Zoom with directors Khaled Abdulwahed (“Background”), Camille Dumortier (“Ivory Tower”), Tatjana Fanny (“Sonnenhof”), and Lori Felker (“Patient”).

Bottom of Form

On October 27 at 16:00 in “Aurora” will be held the St. Petersburg premiere of the closing film of the 33rd International Film Festival “Message to Man” – “Vacation”. The film will be presented by director Anna Kuznetsova.

  • “Intermission”, directed by Anna Kuznetsova. Russia, Finland, 2022, 119 min


On October 20 at 15:00, the Grand Hall of Aurora will host a press conference to mark the opening of the 33rd Message to Man International Film Festival. The event will be attended by the Festival’s President, director Alexei Uchitel, and members of the International Jury, including Elizaveta Boyarskaya, Ji Huang, Chaitanya Tamhane.

In the evening of October 20, the official opening ceremony of the Message to Man IFF will take place at the Alexandrinsky Theatre’s New Stage.

In the evening of October 27, the closing ceremony of the Message to Man International Film Festival will be held at the LenDfoc film studio, where the winners of the National and International competitions, as well as the InSilico Experimental Film Competition, will be announced.

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Administration of the 33rd Message to Man International Film Festival

Media kit:

Yulia Fetisova, PR-director of the Festival
+7 921 091 3329

Message to Man is an international festival of documentary, short live-action, animated and experimental films, founded in 1989 in Leningrad by director Mikhail Litvyakov, who currently serves as the Honorary President of the film festival. In 2010, Alexei Uchitel, a renowned director of documentaries and feature films and People’s Artist of Russia, assumed the role of President of the Festival.

At the heart of the festival’s programme are three competitions. Every year, the selection committee receives over 3,000 applications from all continents and hundreds of countries around the globe. More than 100 films participate in the competition and out-of-competition programmes. Full-length documentaries, short documentaries, feature films, and animation films compete on equal terms for the Grand Prix of the international competition.

Over its 33-year history, the festival has been visited by prominent filmmakers as members of the jury, guests, and participants: Paolo Sorrentino, Werner Herzog, Tonino Guerra, Viktor Kossakovsky, Garri Bardin, Volker Schlöndorff, Agnès Varda, Godfrey Reggio, Emir Kusturica, Gerrit van Dijk, Abdellatif Kechiche, Bill Plympton, Alan Berliner, Niko von Glasow, Helena Trestíková, and many others.