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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » October 8, 2008
The world of movies
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Little Moscow Wins Big
October 8, 2008   
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The results are in for the 33rd annual Polish Film Festival held Sept. 15-20 in the coastal city of Gydnia. Waldemar Krzystek's Mała Moskwa (Little Moscow) drew a five-minute standing ovation from the public and, confounding critics' expectations, went on to scoop the festival's highest award, the Golden Lions.

Mała Moskwa is set in the 1960s in the southwestern Polish city of Legnica, where Krzystek was born in 1953. Legnica was the headquarters of the Soviet forces stationed in Poland from 1945 until 1990 and much of the city was a Soviet enclave closed to outsiders, including Polish citizens, during this time.

Yuri (Dmitry Ulyanov) is a young Russian pilot and failed astronaut posted to Legnica with his even younger wife Vera (Svetlana khodchenkova, judged best leading actress for her performance). Vera learns Polish and becomes fascinated with Polish music and poetry. She meets Polish officer and musician Michał (Lesław Żurek) at a Polish-Soviet "friendship song contest" which she wins. The story inexorably leads to tragedy as Vera desperately tries to stop herself from falling in love with Michał, equally desperately tries to hide her infatuation when this fails, and finally kills herself. The grave of the Russian woman on whose life Mała Moskwa is based still attracts visitors.

The film's success at the Polish Film Festival surprised critics, who had been tipping 33 Scenes from Life as this had already won the Silver Leopard statuette at the Locarno International Film Festival in Switzerland. This drama of a young girl enduring a rapid succession of family tragedies took out the awards for directing, cinematography, musical score and supporting actress, and won the Journalists' Award and the Art House Award.

Michał Rosa's Rysa (Scratch) was another favorite with the critics. Rysa shows the lives of a couple of happy and fulfilled academics descending into bitter mutual recriminations after the woman learns that her husband of 30 years probably married her to make it easier for him to inform on her father to the communist secret security services. Rysa was awarded best screenplay and actors Jadwiga Jankowska-Cie¶lak and Krzysztof Stroiński were singled out for a special prize.

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