Of course, my main purpose at the Message to Man Festival was to serve on the jury, to select the best films in each category from all over the world.
To help, there were 4 judges of extreme talents - Philip Groning, a director and writer from Germany, he made the great documentary "Into Great Silence"; Claire Simon of France, who had 2 films there, "Gare du Nord" and "Human Geography"; Alisher Khamidkhodjaev, who is a famous cinematographer from Russia; and Sylvia Hoeks, a beautiful actress from Holland.
The judging panel at Message to Man
The screening process was long, but consistently entertaining - the selection of the winners went pretty smoothly. There was only one conflict, over best short documentary - it was between two excellent films, "La Princess (La Reina)" and "Beach Boy". They were both excellent, so we decided to split the prize.
The grand prize went to a feature-length film about Pygmies in the Congo, "Forest of the Dancing Spirits" by Linda Västrik. It's a wonderful documentary that looks at a remote tribe as a soap opera.
One curious thing was the fact that during all of my interviews, the questions were about politics. What did I think about Putin, or the situation in Ukraine? I told them all the same thing - I was there to show my film "Cheatin'" and talk about animation. I'm not a student of politics, especially Russian politics, so I wasn't going to make a fool of myself talking about that.
Besides, I'm returning to Russia in December, to a festival in Ekatarinburg, and I don't want my visa to get rejected because I made some anti-Putin remarks! In fact, I heard that the documentary "Pussy Versus Putin" was ordered to be withdrawn from the festival by the Minister of Culture - so there you go.