31st International Film Festival Message to Man Announces Key Out-of-competition Programmes

31st International Film Festival Message to Man Announces Key Out-of-competition Programmes

The jury and the audience will see 7 Russian premieres in the Panorama.doc programme, 7 films in the Superreal Cinema programme, a retrospective of films by Krzysztof Kieślowski and movies that we missed due to the pandemic in the Catching Up programme, as well as a number of special screenings.

31st International Film Festival Message to Man, which will be held from October 29 to November 4 in St. Petersburg, announces key out-of-competition programmes. Most notably, there are two programmes that have already become the Festival’s tradition: Superreal Cinema (curated by Andrey Plakhov), which is a collection of the most anticipated feature films, and Panorama.doc (curated by Alexey Medvedev and Natalia Pylaeva), which includes the season’s essential documentaries from renowned masters and innovative filmmakers.

“The Message to Man Film Festival, which emerged primarily as a showcase of achievements in documentary filmmaking, has changed over time. Now it is no longer possible to view documentaries in terms of an isolated genre or an unrelated form of cinematography. In today’s cinematic flow, fiction and documentary, short film and series, animation and comics, experimental auteur films and mainstream movie genres are interacting, competing, clashing, interpenetrating, and enriching each other. Leaving the core of Message to Man intact, we strive to make it more diverse by highlighting and exploring these complex correlations,” says Andrei Plakhov, Art Director of the Message to Man Film Festival, Honorary Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI).

Alexey Medvedev and Natalia Pylaeva, curators of Panorama.doc, comment on the programme:

“This year the streamlet of actual cinematic life is somewhat more resounding. It seems that now we can not only reflect on how tough it was in 2020 and 2021, but we can try to understand what this new experience has taught us.

Most importantly, it seems that we have rediscovered what it means to be bound to a location: to our apartments, to our cities, to our countries. ‘Bound’ in the literal sense: the global world as we knew it suddenly lost the extent of freedom we had been accustomed to. This turned into the curse of claustrophobia and loneliness, and the blessing of love and regard for what surrounds us.

The programme includes films made before and during the pandemic where these sentiments are featured. They are manifested in letters to deceased relatives, as the text is set against a background of the uninhabited landscapes of Wuhan (A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces by Shengze Zhu). They wander in Belarusian countryside, as they foreshadow the upcoming outbreak (Khan’s Flesh by Kristina Savutsina). They are present as vague longing in the dreams of a Filipino boy from a fishing village who is soon to travel to a big city (Last Days at Sea by Venice Atienza). They amount to a crushing force in the story of a character who has become a prisoner of his past (Flee by Jonas Poher Rasmussen).

By all means, most of these films have nothing to do with the pandemic, but they are an accurate reflection of the spirit of our time. They actualize the concepts of the outskirts and the unattainable centre. Even the funniest and most mischievous film of the programme, The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo by Javier Polo Gandía, in fact, addresses the same topic, as he explores the quintessential Middle American fetish.

Where is our place on earth? We welcome you to look for the answer in the five films of the Panorama.doc programme.”

Panorama.doc programme presents the following selection of films:

  • Last Days at Sea, Venice Atienza, 75 min, Philippines / Taiwan, 2021
  • The Mystery of the Pink Flamingo, Javier Polo Gandía, 82 min, Spain, 2020
  • A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces, Shengze Zhu, 97 min, USA, 2021
  • Flee, Jonas Poher Rasmussen, 90 min, Denmark / France / Sweden / Norway, 2021
  • Khan’s Flesh, Kristina Savutsina, 57 min, Belarus / Germany, 2021


Superreal Cinema

The programme by Andrei Plakhov, Artistic Director of the Message to Man Film Festival, annually presents the most awaited hits of the year’s major festivals. “This year’s programme includes films in a wide range from historical reconstruction to fantastic grotesque. The opening film Everything Went Fine by François Ozon perfectly illustrates the Superreal Cinema title. The plot reproduces a dramatic situation experienced by a well-known Parisian family and became the basis of a documentary story. But the film drifts way apart from its origin into the realm of fiction, which, oddly enough, makes it even more realistic. Such paradoxical combinations are typical for modern cinema, and we build our programme upon them,” says curator Andrei Plakhov about the films in the programme.

Superreal Cinema programme presents the following selection of films:

  • After Blue (Paradis sale), dir. Bertrand Mandico, 130 min, France
  • Natural Light (Természetes fény), dir. Dénes Nagy, 103 min, Hungary
  • Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash, dir. Edwin, 114 min, Indonesia
  • Everything Went Fine (Tout s’est bien passé), dir. François Ozon, 113 min, France
  • , dir. Dietrich Brüggemann, 119 min, Germany

Alexei Medvedev on the Catching Up programme and the films that we missed due to the pandemic:

“The world is put on hold. To this day. Last year, hundreds of film festivals were cancelled, filming process stopped, and movies that could but were not destined to become festival hits premiered online instead.

The intent of the Catching Up programme is self-evident. With the four screenings, we want to bring back those recent films that could have become sensational but never did, for obvious and objective reasons. The genres are different. Father by the Serbian director Srdan Golubović is a harsh social drama turning into a powerful folklore epic that can evoke memories of the remarkable Okraina by Pyotr Lutsik. Eden by the Hungarian filmmaker Ágnes Kocsis is a meditative philosophical parable about the fragility of the body and soul. Bengali Variation is a dynamic story full of sounds and colors about an Indian girl in search of her lover, made by the famous independent film director from France, the eternal nomad Siegfried. Finally, Droneman is a political thriller, as uncompromising as it is unexpected from the Czech director Petr Zelenka, who is known for his irony. What these very different films have in common is that they are definitely worthy of your attention.”

  • Father, dir. Srdan Golubović, 120 min, Serbia, 2020
  • Droneman, dir. Petr Zelenka, 105 min, Czech Republic / Slovakia / Slovenia, 2020
  • Eden, dir. Ágnes Kocsis, 193 min, Hungary, 2020
  • Bengali Variation, dir. Siegfried, 100 min, France / India, 2021

Curator Alena Koroleva on the special programme ‘In Memory of the Future’:

“What could tell us about our present better than our future? The programme consists of documentaries and experimental films, based on stories related to collective anxiety, hopes and projections for the future. Seven short films cover the most controversial topics of our time: climate change and artificial intelligence.

While machine learning heralds a transition to a new stage of evolution, scientists around the globe are unambiguous in their predictions: a man-made climate catastrophe is inevitable if deforestation and fossil fuel consumption continue at the current pace. The task of economic transition to non-carbon energy and changing our priorities seems so daunting that it looks more like the plot of a science fiction film. At the same time, artificial intelligence technologies are no longer fiction, as they spread into all areas of our lives. But will the new technology help us cope with the problems or will they bring new ones? Will it be able to create art? Will they take our jobs? The future is unpredictable, but one thing is certain: we are entering a brave new world with the baggage of our past.”

 ‘In Memory of the Future’ programme presents the following selection of films:

  • We Are Epicenters of the Earthquake, dir. Tomáš Hlaváček, 41 min, Czech Republic, 2020
  • Exercises in Being Close to You: A Story for the Arctic Refuge, dir. Krista Davis, 16 min, Canada, 2020
  • .TV, dir. Anthony Svatek, 22 min, USA / New Zealand / France / Tuvalu, 2017
  • Ieva, dir. Domas Petronis, Vytautas Plukas, 14 min, Lithuania / Germany / Norway, 2021
  • AIVA, dir. Veneta Androva, 13 min, Bulgaria / Germany, 2020
  • VO, dir. Nicolas Gourault, 20 min, France, 2020
  • Year of the Robot, dir. Yves Gellie, 31 min, France, 2019


Another key out-of-competition programme of the Message to Man Film Festival is dedicated to the anniversary of Krzysztof Kieślowski, who would have turned 80 in June this year. The retrospective programme titled ‘Kieslowski. Game Ethics’, covering the work of the outstanding Polish director in the 1960s and the 1970s, was put together by curators Alexander Markov and Olga Davidenko.

“Kieślowski is widely known for his latest films (The Double Life of Veronique, the Three Colours trilogy), but he used to make documentaries before he started making feature films. And it is his early non-fiction works that are predominantly the subject of our programme, aimed at revealing the steps of his journey. We have to return ‘to where it all began’ so that we can take a close look at the letters that spell a great name and study their heritage for a document of their time. How do you work with the world around, when you are a filmmaker placed in unsteady conditions, to put it mildly? How do you pay attention to the world while being aware of your responsibility before it? These are ethical questions, which are answered with a ‘fictional’ approach by if not Kieślowski himself, then his films,” curators Alexander Markov and Olga Davidenko note.

In the retrospective programme of the Message to Man Film Festival, the Russian audience will have a chance to get to know the director’s documentaries – from his graduation work From the City of Łódź, the political films Factory and Workers ’71: Nothing About Us Without Us saturated with the author’s agitation. In his work, Krzysztof reflects on and covers various topics: from global and philosophical issues (Refrain) to zealous and scrupulous observation of the work of bricklayers and doctors (The Bricklayer, Hospital). The retrospective includes the film Camera Buff, which won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 11th Moscow International Film Festival in 1979. As part of the Message to Man programme, Kieślowski’s films First Love, X-Ray, From a Night Porter’s Point of View, Seven Women of Different Ages, Talking Heads, and Short Working Day will also be screened.

A number of special screenings will take place at the venues of the Message to Man Festival.

Bernardo Bertolucci, an outstanding director of the second half of the 20th century, played an important role not only in the development of cinematography, but in the social life of the 1960s–1980s, which was characterized by sharp social breakdowns, generational conflicts, ideological confrontations, and morality shifts. Bernardo Bertolucci’s early films, such as Before the Revolution, reflected the rise of the radical left in Italy and throughout Western Europe, setting the stage for the tumultuous 1968 upheaval. As part of the Message to Man Film Festival, to mark Bertolucci’s 80th birthday, we are screening two of his films directly related to the turbulent period.

Filmgoers will see two works by Bernardo Bertolucci: Partner and The Spider’s Stratagem.

Another special screening programme is dedicated to the outstanding filmmaker Alexander Sokurov and his students whose full-length films every year become hits at major world’s festivals. Message to Man will present news short films by students of Sokurov’s workshop at the St. Petersburg State University of Film and Television.

  • Venus Transit, dir. Alexander Moskalenko, 9 min., Russia, 2021
  • Part of the Circle, dir. Vsevolod Voronov, 27 min., Russia, 2021
  • Sasha, dir. Nikita Dobrynin, 7 min., Russia, 2021
  • Weak Tiger, dir. Muslim Mogushkov, 35 min., Russia, 2021
  • Past Water, dir. Sara Michelle Kartashova, 19 min., Russia, 2021
  • Going Back Home, dir. Sergey Lukyanchenko, 6 min., Russia, 2021

As a tribute to the years-long cooperation between the Festival and the Institute, Message to Man will feature a special screening of short films by students and graduates of the Faculty of Screen Arts:

  • Grandmother, dir. Ilya Larionov, 23 min., Russia, 2021
  • Follow Me, dir. Anastasia Ivanova, 5 min., Russia, 2020
  • Me, Fish, dir. Darya Melnikova, 5 min., Russia, 2020
  • Awakening, dir. Elizaveta Kokoreva, 6 min., Russia, 2021
  • What Happened Before the Guests Arrived, dir. David Pozdyrka, 30 min., Russia, 2021
  • Executor, dir. Roma Blatman, 15 min., Russia, 2020

Also the Festival will feature the St. Petersburg cinema premiere of the documentary film Who defeated you is nobody by Lyubov Arkus, dedicated to the actress Alla Demidova.

Guests will see the Russian premiere of the documentary Paraíso by Portuguese director Sergio Tréfaut known for his meticulous research films. This piece is devoted to the study of the relationship between residents of a nursing home.